Not sure whether your rhubarb is ready to be picked? Here are some helpful tips for how and when to harvest rhubarb!
When to Pick Rhubarb
PLEASE don’t wait for your rhubarb to turn “all red”. Colour is not an indication of ripeness when it comes to rhubarb – it is just an indication of variety. All three types of rhubarb below are ripe – based on size not color.
Just like you wouldn’t wait for a Granny Smith apple to turn red – don’t wait for your rhubarb to turn red! Instead, rely on the size of the rhubarb stalks.
Stalks should be about 7-15 inches (20-40 cm) long when they are ready to harvest.
How to Pick Rhubarb
Once it’s ready to harvest, here’s what to do:
- Start with the bigger stalks on the outside of the plant and work your way towards the centre. Leave the smaller stalks for another day.
- Slide your hand to the bottom of the stalk and pull. The stalk should come out nice and easy.
- If you find you’re pulling out roots or you can’t reach all the way, you can also cut the stalks as close to the ground as possible. Pulling the stalks allows the plant to recover a little more quickly as compared to cutting stalks, but it is not detrimental to the plant.
- Leave at least 1/3 of the stalks on the plant in spring time to ensure it continues to grow and thrive throughout the summer.
- Trim the leaves and put them in the compost. (Yes, the leaves are poisonous, but they won’t hurt anything in your compost bin.)
- Harvest whenever more stalks are ripe, always leaving at least 1/3 of the plant.
- Once the plant starts to flower, the stalks will get a little tougher. To extend the season, cut off the flower stalks.
- In early July, give the plant a chance to gain some strength over the summer. Add a little compost around the roots and let it be.
- Rhubarb doesn’t like the heat and won’t do much during the summer, but you may get some more stalks in the cool fall season. At this time of year, be sure to leave 2/3 of the stalks on the plant so it can store enough energy to survive the winter. Do not harvest if your plant is young, small or has not filled out after the hot summer months.
Concerned that your neighbour’s rhubarb plant is bigger than yours? To get a big luscious rhubarb plant think about moisture, drainage, compost and sun. These are the elements that will make a rhubarb plant thrive. But, luckily, even if conditions aren’t ideal, rhubarb is a very tolerant plant and you’re bound to get a pie or two.
For more rhubarb information and a list of my favorite rhubarb recipes check out 7 Things You Need to Know About Rhubarb
Here’s some pictures of rhubarb plants to help you see the different stages.
Just coming out of the ground.
Growing. Sure you could grab a few stalks now, but if you wait just a few more days, you’ll get enough for a pie or two!
Ready to harvest! It will start to flower soon, best time to harvest is right now.
When harvesting, leave 1/3 of the stalks behind during spring time (2/3 of stalks in fall) so the plant can continue to grow and thrive. You’ll have a few more stalks now and then.
For more great rhubarb and other fruit recipes and preserving ideas, pick up a copy of the Prairie Fruit Cookbook ! Or check out some of these recipes:
Well, that should keep you busy! What else will you make with your rhubarb besides pie, cobbler and crisp?
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.