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All about rhubarb

 
Caitlin Elder
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Location: Missoula
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There is an article in Backwoods Home Magazine written by Jacky Clay about rhubarb. In the article she talks about cutting part of the plant off and then giving it away to friends so that they could have their own plants.  Does this really work?  Are there rhubarb seeds I can plant, or do I need to find someone with an mature rhubarb plant and ask for a piece of theirs?
 
Burra Maluca
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The 'best' rhubarb plants are those that don't run to seed easily, so growing it from seed is not only time consuming but likely to produce plants that tend to run to seed instead of producing loads of lovely stems for you.  If you dig up a mature rhubarb plant in the late winter or early spring, the root is often in the form of a ring or crown which you can divide up into several pieces, each of which will give you a new plant. 

Rhubarb doesnt's seem to grow too well here and the plants we brought with us from the UK five years ago are still hardly big enough to give us anything to eat, let alone divide, so I've just started some more off from seed.  Don't forget to grow some sweet cicely alongside it too so you can use it to sweeten the rhubarb when you stew it up. 
 
                              
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Location: Denmark
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Burra, rhubarbs needs a period of cold weather to grow well. Flower bulbs, angelica seeds and the like you can place in the freezer for a while, but I don't know if that will work with rhubarb roots. Maybe in the fridge in a pot with soil?
 
Burra Maluca
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Cold weather in the winter we have.  What our rhubarb lacks is rich, deep soil, regular rain and *shade* - it doesn't like our hot dry summers, and shade is in very short supply!  Our comfrey plant is doing much the same - just scraping by and refusing to do much by way of growing. 

One thing that has really suprised me though is gooseberries.  We found a plant for sale and bought it in disbelief, thinking it was totally unsuitable, but it has done ok.  Unfortunately we lost half of it in the spring when the donkey took a swipe at it on the way past and managed to bite a huge lump off, and then my other half managed to cut half of the rest off when he was strimming, so the poor thing isn't making much headway.  I tried taking cuttings from the bit that he cut off but I doubt they'll take. 
 
Brenda Groth
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i divided a large plant about a month ago and I got probably 100 babies from it..the roots divide very easily..i planted several in my food forest garden and a bunch of them around my pond
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I once saw a rhubarb root cutting for sale at Home Depot.
 
rose macaskie
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Maybe we have to invent a cold green house for plants that don't survive in dry climates. Something boxed in to keep in the humidity, that let in the light without getting too hot inside. rose macaskie.
 
Caitlin Elder
Posts: 69
Location: Missoula
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While we are on the topic of rhubarb does anyone have any good recipes for it.  My neighbor has a plant that she was just going to mow over, so I snagged all the rhubarb that I could and froze it.  Can I dehydrate it? 
 
Burra Maluca
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When I was a kid my mum used to cut us each a stem of rhubarb and give us an old yogurt pot with some sugar on the bottom and we would dunk the end of the stick into the sugar, bite the sugary end of the stick off, then dunk it again. 

Then we progressed to rhubarb crumble - stew up the rhubarb with sugar and/or a bit of sweet cicely, then make up a crumble mix to cover it and bake, serve with custard or I think my mum used to use evaporated milk out of a can.  If she was short of time she wouldn't make the crumble but serve the rhubarb and evaporated milk with digestive biscuits which we would use to scoop out big dollops of sloppy rhubarb. 

A lower carb version would be rhubarb stewed up with sweet cicely and served with cream.

I also have memories of my mum making rhubarb fool which was incredibly delicious, but I've no idea how to make it...

Argh - I'm getting hungry!!! 
 
Leila Rich
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Growing rhubarb from seed would take ages and I think it's one of those plants where a clone would be best.
When the crowns are divided, it seems they'll grow from anything... I've put them through a hot compost and they're thriving at the other end.  If there's a piece of crown and a piece of root, you will get more rhubarb plants.
Older people often grow it and most would be very happy to give you some pups in exchange for dividing their rhubarb!
Just make sure you get a red-stalked variety; the giant green one, while impressive looking, goes khaki when cooked and lacks flavour.
Here's a few rhubarb ideas:
I put the chopped stalks in a roasting pan, sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon, zest and juice an orange over it, cover and put in a hot oven until soft but still holding its shape, about 20-30 minutes.
Serve it on breakfast, put it in muffins, as a topping for an upside-down cake...
rhubarb combines really well with other fruit, which tone down its acidity.  Apples, plums and berries are my favourites. 
When I was a kid, rhubarb had four uses: in a crumble or stewed on muesli, custard or rice pudding.  Good, plain ideas imported directly from Mother England!
I live in a temperate climate, ideal for growing rhubarb, so your results may vary...
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Bill Mollison's TV show included a visit to Botswana, where the locals had developed a structure much like Rose describes, as a stop-gap until mature trees could grow.

It was basically a dome built of dry tree branches, in a variety of sizes somewhere between a cloche and a low tunnel. There were enough needles left on the branches to almost completely block the wind, and it seemed like the dappled shade was about 50% of the intensity of un-broken sun.

Such protection would also probably help ramps and similar understory-adapted plants.
 
rose macaskie
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Caitlin elder asks for recipies on rhubarb o for how to make a fool. I know how to make any type of fool, you just cook your fruit and then put it through a sieve to turn it into a puree, that’s if you're old fashioned, nowadays you liquidize it using a machine that purees.  You don’t want a totally liquid puree, a puree full of water would turn into a drink, so don’t put in all the liquid that comes out of the fruit when you stew it in  when you puree the cooked fruit unless there is very little liquid in the mix. If you cook the fruit in the oven they are more likely to come out drier. If you stew the fruit with too much water it will be tasteless you only use enough water to stop the fruit burning, a inch of water at the bottom of the pot, the fruit  let out all the liquid you need to cook them in.

    minimal version of the recipe.
I have made one so I could write about the quantities you need of fruit and cream. I bought one 200 ml packet of whipping cream and a half kilo of apricots i used three quarters of the cream but the fool was too creamy so I think it would be 200ml for a kilo of fruit that is 100 ml of cream for a pound of fruit, maybe less would have a better taste stewed apricots are so delicious, better than fresh ones even, that they hardly need any cream.
     You whip the cream.   
    Once your puree of fruits is made and your cream whipped you mix the puree and whipped cream together and you are ready to serve it or leave it in the fridge till wanted.


     Fools are an old fashioned dish so i consider whipped cream mixed with fruit puree to be the correct recipe and that is how my grandparents saw things but mixing the pureed fruit with custard, made from birds powdered custard  is a cheap and modern alternative. Maybe a small pot of cream is not so very expensive now days, so you can make it with cream without breaking the bank for nearly the same price as custard. The flavor is more delicate with cream not custard and the texture better with little air bubbles in the whipped cream.

  Sugar is a point i have not mentioned. The best stewed fruit is made with acid types of fruit, rhubarb, plums, red white and black currants, so you will need to add a bit of sugar to the fruit as it cooks if you don’t want the result to be too tart.
    Add sugar to taste, to have a puree as sweet as you like it. This  means adding a bit, tasting  the puree to see what you think and if its still too sour adding a bit more. The cream will make the fruit less acid anyway so it is not as if you were going to eat the puree straight you don’t need too much sugar you are not making marmalade.
    More sugar can be added on each persons plate so it is better not to make stewed fruit too sweet and the diners can make it as sweet as they want on their plates. It is nice adding sugar on your plate, that way it is crunchy. More cream can be added on the plate un-whipped cream that will also provide a contrast to the fool.

       
      You fold in the whipped cram cream. Folding in is a gentle way of mixing two ingredients,  it is useful if you are mixing a whipped substances like egg whites and whipped cream full of air bubbles into something else because you don't want to lose the bubbles in the cream when you mix it with whatever other substance is in the recipe in this instance the pureed fruit.
Folding In.
    After placing you cream on your puree, maybe not all of it at once, you slip the spoon, a wooden one with a wide spoon bit, down the right side of the bowl more or less and nearly along the bottom keeping the spoon aligned with the bowl looking sideway when it goes down the side and upwards when it is going along the bottom but lifting it out at the other side at such an angle that it brings up puree on the spoon and then twisting the spoon over so the puree gets laid on top of the cream, the puree is folded over the cream and then you repeat the movement till all the cream is folded in. It is the sort of movement you learn better from watching it, it is hard to explain.
       I am writing for some fifteen year old with no experience of cooking say, not for your experienced permaculture cook. The truth is they don't stew fruit in Spain so I feel as if its necessary to go into details.
     Paul Wheaton could do a video of someone folding in egg whites for a cake or whipped cream for a fool..
       I could too but I have not got it together to hang up videos on you tube.  Agri rose macaskie.     
 
rose macaskie
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Caitlin elder asked for recipes for rhubarb.
  How do you stew fruit? rhubarb and such-
  Fruit apart from containing vitamin c has often contains a lot of b vitamins as does meat and also minerals and other vitamins and a lot of minerals so a second course of fruit and rice pudding or custard must a nutritious addition to the diet of children and adults. Apparently our hamburger diets are lacking in minerals.
  It surprises me that no big companies commercialize frozen stewed fruit, it freezes very well and can be used in pies and as fools and mousses and soufflés and eaten straight accompanied with rice puddings and custards. Stewed fruits freeze very well.

    You have to be careful to put in very little water when you stew fruit, most fruits let off a lot of liquid and so unless you put in very little water the fruit comes out watery. If you don't put in any water then the fruit will burn.
You put a little sugar in to take the worst of the acidity off the fruit but you can also add sugar to stewed fruit on each persons pudding plate so you don’t need to put in too much sugar when you cook them.
      I have just cooked apricots in a inch a bit less of water, as they cook the liquid grows in volume as it comes out of the fruit until it nearly covers them. There was still too much liquid for the puree I wanted to make though I cooked the apricots for a while to evaporate off the liquid, If you cook them in the oven they are more likely to come out drier.
      Apples need to be cooked in lots more water than most other fruit need, they absorb water and for this reason, i suppose, are good if you have diarrhea or vomiting, peeled and grated apple raw serves to help people with mild stomach problems. I find it works very well for these it has cured all my children’s mild stomach problems, vomiting and diarrheas. Of course it would not do for bad problems, with bad problems you need to visit the doctor.
    I cooked the apricots in a pan but you can cook fruit in the oven I suppose.
    I usually try not to leave fruit in a metal pan once cooked incase the acid in the fruit melts the metal a bit and this gives an unpleasant taste to the fruit. The same goes for beans and lentils and such, my Elizabeth David cooking book says the water you cook beans in is so strong you can bottle the water you pour off after the first twenty minutes of cooking, something you can do to reduce the strengths and the evil effects  of a bean stew putting in fresh water for the rest of the cooking time. She says you can bottle the water you pour of f them after twenty minutes  and use it to clean stubborn stains off clothes, so the water of pulses is very strong and if you don’t want your stew to taste of a metal cooking pot you had better move it into a bowl when cooked or even cook it in an earthenware pot.
     
    You wash the fruit and put it into the pan putting smaller fruit in whole normally. You might cut the fruit in half. You cook the fruit with their stones, pips and such, whether you cut the fruit open or not. The stones and pips of fruit  give off pectin which is like a fruit gelatin and is part of what makes jam gel. Pectin is good for your stomach, intestines, I can’t remember exactly which.
    If you are going to eat the fruit as stewed fruit, with rice pudding say as an accompaniment, you put the whole fruit in your mouth and then spit out the stones on to your spoon and pass them onto your plate. If you are too refined for this I suppose you should take out the stones before serving the fruit. If the fruit is in a pastry  case you don’t include the stones.
      If you are going to make your fruit into a puree you will want to take the stones out after the fruit is stewed and before it is pureed, the stones might break the machine that purees them. If you pass it through a sieve you leave the stones in, they won’t go through the sieve. I cook apples without peeling coring them and then I put them through the moulee, the pips get left behind, the apple puree comes out well. I saw a French cook do this on the television and since then have done it myself.

Jelly-
  You can strain the juice that comes out of fruit and add gelatin to make natural jellies, they are much nicer than packet jellies, my mother used to make them one year after reading some book or other and deciding to collect jelly molds. In Victorian times they used to decorate jelly with gold leaf. 
     

    Stewed fruit is a way of eating fruit before its absolutely ripe because tart fruits taste better stewed than mild fruit that would come out tasteless. Cooking slightly unripe fruit  is especially so with apricots, plums skins, make them tart when cooked even if they are ripe, rhubarb, and currants are tart anyway especially black currants and rhubarb, so are gooseberries, peaches like apples can come out a bit bland.

      Red fruits make some fabulous colored puddings.
   
    Cooked eating apples come out very bland unless you put in lots of apples and cook them for a long time to reduce their juice because it evaporates off.

      Traditionally you eat stewed fruit with bland things baked custard, rice pudding, pastry, in France with brioche a slightly sweet and eggy bread which is good with stewed fruit. Bland things go well with tart ones like fruit. Traditionally you pour cream all over stewed fruit, and even do the same when you serve it with custard and rice pudding, to make the desert a bit less digestible and more fattening or you could say a bit creamier or richer. It is also usual to sprinkle sugar over stewed fruit which gives the fruit a interesting crunchiness.
      You have to remember to eat less first course if you are going to eat pudding. If you have lots of fruit trees it maybe a cheaper way to feed your family than totally depending on the first course. Miik puddings can't be too expensive as a food source either. 
      Stewed fruit are easy to freeze but i forget to unfreeze them and eat them. 
Agri rose macaskie.

 
                              
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Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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HI! I dug up and divided my rhubarb plant (which I'd gotten in a gallon pot at a MG saleabout 4 years ago now, so it was a division) I was surprised how big the root was! I divided it by chopping down with a shovel straight through the root to separate the clusters. I did it in early spring, and it seemed to handle it well. I also gave it lots of powdered eggshells and coffee grounds to feed it(both in the hole and on top). The stalks get redder the more food it gets.

I use it for strawberry rhubarb jam. I just keep picking it through the spring, slice it up and put it in the freezer till the berries are ready.

I pick off the flower stalks when it starts to bolt.
 
Brenda Groth
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ok i'm going to be sacreligious on here and mention the dreaded J word.

my MIL made the best rhubarb dessert out of rhubarb cooked in a couple cups of water, a couple tablespoons of tapioca while cooking and then sweetened with a package of JELLO while hot..she used strawberry flavor but probably any flavor would work..i know bad word..but you can use gelatin and real strawberries as well i'm sure..

also the amish make a killer rhubarb/custard pie, but i don't know the recipe...you just cook the rhubarb and put it in with the custard and bake the pie..probably all sweetened somehow.

rhubarb can also just be steweed, and sweetened and served with cream or whatever..it gets soft and mushy as it cooks..and can be mixed with any berry or fruit basically that is avail.

if you cut it in 1" or shorter pieces then the strings are short enough to not be a bother..
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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There's nothing wrong with aspic, whatever the brand name: it has a rich history, and a bright future of local, sustainable production. And the process of genericising a trade mark is one of the most elegant, ethical, and legal ways for large numbers of people without money or resources or coordination to take back property (intellectual property, even...the most insidious kind) from corporations, so in fact I'm all for using "the dreaded J word" as a generic term for aspic and/or gelatin.

Jello, jello, jello...try the store brand of jello, it's usually just as good! Or make your own jello from scratch. And un-flavored jello is an extremely good wood glue: once bowyers tested it along with all sorts of other adhesives, and found that it outperformed everything except one brand of high-priced specialty epoxy; there was basically a tie for first place in terms of strength and toughness.

Also, great recipe ideas. My parents have an old Pennsylvania Dutch baking book, maybe I'll look up that pie recipe some time.
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Just made a rhubarb and blueberry pie yesterday.      4 c rhubarb, 1c blueberries, 3/4 c sugar, 1T butter, 3 heaping T tapioca, and thats it, no spices.    Great flavors.
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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rhubarb compendium:
http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/

rhubarb tea
http://anicecuppa.net/2007/05/07/rhubarb-tea/
 
Suzie Browning
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Location: Southwestern Ohio
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I've planted rhubarb for the first time this year so I am not familiar with it's growing habits other than I know the leaves get pretty large.

Someone mentioned that it likes shade but I wasn't sure what area they were from.  I did some research before planting and planted in full sun, so now I'm doubting the location.

If planted at the edge of a bed, will it help suppress grass from encroaching? I'm guessing it would shade out many weeds due to it's size and early growth.  If I were trying to suppress grass and weeds, does it die back early enough in the season that it would allow unwanted plant growth?

I was given a bunch of seeds that I have not planted yet. I tested germination and it was pretty high.  Though, I know they will not come true to the parent plant, how awful would these babies be?  Is the flavor impacted as much as the color?

Other than eating and a chop and drop mulch, does rhubarb have any other uses?  Animal feed, or maybe fiber since it's stringy?  Would red stalks produce a red dye?

Has anyone ever dried and powdered rhubarb?
 
Leila Rich
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Suzie
Growing comfrey with rhubarb could work for you. Comfrey makes great stock feed, whereas rhubarb leaves are toxic. They're both great in the compost.
I don't imagine rhubarb's much good for dyeing or drying: it's a pretty watery red at best, and  the astringent kick would overpower anything you added it to.
If you're growing from seed, be brutal and get rid anything funny looking or tasting.
 
Brenda Groth
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earlier on i mentioned in this thread that i had divided one rhubarb and gotten hundreds of plants..this is a follow up..they all grew and are beautiful..i even mailed an entire root to Toledo and it was planted and grew fine..

gave more to family and they planted them as well.

rhubarb is pretty doggone hardy and easy to move and transplant...and makes a really great mulch
 
                            
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A few years ago there was a rhubarb grower/hobbiest in Washington state, somewhere near Tacoma. He collected all sorts of varieties of rhubarbs including many old heirlooms and it's my understanding that he had some of the last of certain varieties. Can't find his name now.. darn it. Anyway, I've never been able to contact him or get ahold of him. Does anyone have any idea of who I'm talking about, or how to contact?

There is an old log cabin about 5 miles from where I live. Has been vacant for nearly 50 years. Has a lovely rhubarb plant growing next to it. I'm going to speak with the owners and see if I can take some starts when it is dormant.
 
Matt Ferrall
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It is very easy from seed also and I grew about 50 one spring this way.There are many different species with a few available from Horizon Herbs.The common garden variety is a hybred.It like rich soil so has not done well for me but I often see it near compost piles.The peet bog at the Bullocks was originaly drained to farm it so it must also like acid soils.
 
rose macaskie
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mt goat how do you grow it from seed? Does it have any special like and hates i tried once and it did not work. I am however lousey at growing things from seed packets. rose macaskie.
 
 
Matt Ferrall
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nothing special that I remember.I`m brutal on my plants so the fact that it survived is truly a testament.Plant in early spring.Also,in the interest of full disclosure,perhaps some of you have noticed how,like chestnut pollen, its pollen smells like a certain bodily fluid produced by the human male.
 
rose macaskie
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i think that about the lime flower i think it is, that, about certain body fliuids, and the raw cut potato about certain female ones. like ovulating time ones. i hope there are no very young on the forums. If i am going to be friendly and contribute to full disclosure to. i am quite depressed today maybe this topic will pull my mind into a livlier mind set.
  So you get the full picture of my seed planting skills, i have to tell you how bad they are. They take the form is of me  chucking seeds onto what is nearly a lawn, not as tight knit a hay feild and wondering why they wont come up. I was already that way inclined and then I saw  sepp holzer chucking seeds around but i suppose, thinking about it properly, he chucks them on to land he put the pigs onto before, that has been pig ploughed. I have also tried chucking seeds on to the two baby, by which i mean little, hugglekulture beds i made, also with little sucess. rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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When i say a  lime tree i mean a linden or base wood tree. agri rose macaskie.
 
John Rushton
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Re: cooking fruit with their stones:  stones can have large amounts of cyanide, I believe.  Presumably this is not a problem?  Is the cyanide destroyed by heat, or does it not leach from the stone, or is something else at work?
 
rose macaskie
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  don't know the answer to the stones of fruit and cynide question i only know that traditionally fruit is cooked with its stones ,marmalades and stewed fruit and it does not kill people my grandmother ate stewed fruit nearly every day and marmalde too and died at 86 which isnot too bad. I know  that peptin comes out of the pips and stones of fruit and  is good for the stomach or digetsive tract. i suppose the cynide disappears in the cooking jam and such does not taste of cynide like some almonds do. If you think about it we eat almonds though some have a strong taste of cynide. agri rose macaskie.
 
Jennifer Smith
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rose macaskie wrote:
i am quite depressed today maybe this topic will pull my mind into a livlier mind set.

Rose I hate to hear you are unhappy and I hope you are cheered now. 

I have a large rhubarb plant I bought from the home center but it is not the bright red I would like.  I think if I go back to old neighborhood I may be able to get a start of the bright red.

I have started some from seed and it did start well, but it was way too hot in Alabama for it and it died.  I plan to start some more here and try for the bright red stalkes I love.  I had thought that by buying a start it would be top quality, but not so sure now. 

Like everything else here it is in a pot.  Anyone have ideas about what it would like to grow with?

I guess if someone were to look up pot plant they would find me, ha.  I was in Colorado not too long ago and medical marijuana is legal there and it seems a handy plant to me.  I got quite an education on it while I was there.
 
Jennifer Smith
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It is raining so I think I will go dig out my seed and put it out.  I will finally get to plant something right where it will grow to get best possable root system and it will be rhubarb.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Ok so what would you grow with rhubarb?  I am hunting just the right spot to plant the rhubarb seeds and would like to multi use the bed.  Any suggestions?
 
solomon martin
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Caitlin Elder wrote:
While we are on the topic of rhubarb does anyone have any good recipes for it.  My neighbor has a plant that she was just going to mow over, so I snagged all the rhubarb that I could and froze it.  Can I dehydrate it? 


My sister makes pie with rhubarb and apples, just substitute half the apples with chopped rhubarb, add a little extra sugar and a spoon full of flour to sweeten and absorb extra moisture.

I have friends that make rhubarb wine, they often freeze it till they get around to making the wine.

Also works good in Zucchini bread.

I've never seen dehydrated rhubarb, my thoughts are that it would become really stringy, and no fun to eat.
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Side dressing the rhubarb plants today with composted horse manure.  Snow expected tomorrow.
 
rose macaskie
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    I have googled cynide in fruit and found that it is in bamboo shoots and so you have to cook them well, so getting rid of the cynide in things does seem to be a question of cooking.
    I am wonderinfg if rubarb will grow in spain, i should think its too hot and dry for it unless you are there to look after it all the time. agri rose macaskie.
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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rose macaskie wrote:
     I have googled cynide in fruit and found that it is in bamboo shoots and so you have to cook them well, so getting rid of the cynide in things does seem to be a question of cooking.
    I am wonderinfg if rubarb will grow in spain, i should think its too hot and dry for it unless you are there to look after it all the time. agri rose macaskie.


We are hot and dry here from may to october - I use drip irrigation and they are planted under fig trees for partial shade.
 
Brenda Groth
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been reading a lot of books lately and came across a part on rhubarb in one the other day where people used rhubarb for a savory food rather than a sweet food, adding it to soups and stews..similar to how you would add celery cut up in pieces..

I might give that a try..hubby doesn't like sour foods though

another thing I read recently is to grow sweet cicely near your rhubarb and cook the two together, and that the sweet cicely will sweeten the rhubarb..
 
rose macaskie
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      Thanks gregory i will try them.
  It looks like i will have to look up sweet ciciley I dont know what it is.
 
                                      
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Jennifer Smith wrote:
Ok so what would you grow with rhubarb?  I am hunting just the right spot to plant the rhubarb seeds and would like to multi use the bed.  Any suggestions?


Bumping this question....I'm curious as well. rhubarb okay around fruit trees? okay around other perennials like strawberries and artichokes? i guess i'll let you know in a year because thats what i just did
 
Leila Rich
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I plant rhubarb all over the place: I can only give it away to so many people after dividing it!
It's great under fruit trees, but jovialgent, rhubarb can get 5+ feet across over a few years, before it needs dividing, so it's pretty hard to combine them with smaller, less exuberant plants.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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