Let’s start with the fact that rhubarb is a perennial plant from the buckwheat family used in cooking and has medicinal properties. The most famous species are Chinese rhubarb, Rheum maximowiczii, and Rheum rhabarbarum. The last one is most often used in the preparation of various dishes, and Chinese rhubarb — for medicinal purposes. Some varieties of Tangutic rhubarb are often used as decorative perennial plants. For example, Atrosanguinea attracts designers with its dark pink inflorescences against a background of purple foliage.
Rhubarb collects useful substances in the leaf stalks and roots. In addition to rhubarb root, leaves also have medicinal properties. More precisely, leaf petioles contain many vitamins, organic acids (such as malic, citric, succinic), and trace elements. Petioles of table varieties of rhubarb are highly valued not only for their medicinal properties but also for their rich sweet and sour taste.
It is crucial to distinguish between medicinal and decorative types of rhubarb from those used for food — table species. The main distinguishing feature of table rhubarb is that its leaf edge is even, whole-edged. And for medicinal or decorative rhubarb, the leaf will be carved, resembling a palm or lobe, finger-cut or lobed.
How to Pick Rhubarb Properly
To correctly and safely harvest rhubarb cuttings, you need to follow the rules:
- The petioles harvested should be young, tender, and soft. It is crucial because otherwise there is a risk of harm to your health. Choosing petioles, they are carefully palpated and examined. The ripeness of the petioles is determined by the length (not less than 20-30 cm and not more than 80 cm) and width (from 1.5 cm).
- The petiole is not torn off — it is carefully taken from the root base and, twisting, smoothly pull up. As a rule, the petiole stretches easily, and this action is not difficult. If difficulties nevertheless arise, then you can simply cut off the petiole at the very root. After collecting the leaves with petioles, it is necessary to cut off the leaf plate, then wash and remove the cover. They are now ready to eat. Rhubarb is not recommended to be consumed raw for children and people with stomach and pancreatic diseases. It must be heated.
- You cannot collect all the leaves from the plant because it may die. For growth and a rich harvest in the future, rhubarb needs at least 5-6 leaves, of which 1-2 are young.
Additional rule: rhubarb should not be allowed to bloom. During this period, the plant accumulates many substances that not only negatively affect the taste of the petioles but can also be harmful to health. Flower-bearing stems are removed to increase the period of collection of the petioles while shortening the flowering time.
If the plant was grown from seeds, then before harvesting you will have to wait a year or even two.