How to harvest rhubarb

Updated February 21, 2017

Rhubarb is a hardy and versatile vegetable that grows throughout the spring and summer in the UK. It's commonly found in vegetable gardens because the plant is easy to grow and harvest and a great addition to a nutrition-conscious diet. Caring for and harvesting your rhubarb crop only requires a few straightforward steps.

Cut stalks close to the base. Rhubarb plants grow in thick, almost woody stalks that cluster close at the base of the plant and have large, flat leaves at the top. Just about all of the stalk can be harvested and used, so cut stalks as close to the base of the plant as you can. Don't be afraid to bend neighbouring stalks out of your way; they are sturdy so you won't break them.

Remove the leaves. Most recipes involving rhubarb call for the stalks only, so cut the leaves from the tops of the stalks when you harvest them.

Note the colour of the stalks. Rhubarb begins to show distinctive streaks of red and magenta along the stalks when it is ripe for harvesting. Green rhubarb is not quite ripe and should be left for another week or so. Cut rhubarb when the stalks show a dark plum color at the base of the plant and the streaks of red extend up to the top of the stalk.

Watch out for insects. With its closely clustered base that insects love to take shelter in. When harvesting rhubarb, give each stalk a brisk shake as you remove it to get rid of any unwanted bugs.

Use rhubarb soon after cutting. If not used or frozen quickly, the cut ends of rhubarb stalks will begin to turn brown, and the stalks will become mushy. Use fresh rhubarb soon after you cut it from the plant to avoid this problem. Rhubarb also freezes well; cut stalks into 2.5 cm chunks and freeze them as you harvest them, and they will remain firm and flavourful after thawing.

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