A May Harvest of Rhubarb

The “pie-plant” or rhubarb makes great jams and sauces and performs for years. By George Knowles.

May 17, 2010 | | Blogs | Gardening at Larkspur Hollow | Leisure

It lasts for years, makes great jams and sauces and partners well with currants. And you can harvest it in May. Meet the rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a botanically classified as a vegetable, although by a court decision in New York in 1947, it was reclassified (for tax reduction, of course) since it was most often used as a fruit.

Many call it the “pie-plant” because of its wide use in pies with strawberries, apples and other soft fruits. It makes great jam and sauce – thanks to the ready availability of sugar.

Rhubarb is easy to grow and, once established, gives years of performance with little more than a once-yearly topping with compost.

Our plants receive an inoculation in early spring or late fall when there are no leaves on the plants. The stalks are pulled now; leaves clipped off; washed and sliced and frozen.

The other partners to rhubarb in this garden are currants, black and red. These fruits combine with stewed rhubarb and a couple of purchased additions, such as Ontario sour cherries and field strawberries to make four-fruit compote.

It is the basis for breakfast every morning under the granola.

The currant bushes shown (four mature and two recent cuttings) yielded 14 quarts of berries last year. Most of the black ones were made into jam. Some of the red ones became Melba Sauce.

There is a wonderful intensity of flavour to both colours and they are, in my view, under-appreciated in Canada.

All that is needed to enable a harvest of currants is some bird netting.

On our small plot, the metal posts carry a perimeter wire which is used to support plastic netting around the sides and over the top.

The netting is on lightweight poles and it is easy to fasten to the wire and walk around the bushes.

When the season is over, the netting is simply rolled up on the poles and stored away for next year.

About the Author More by George Knowles

George Knowles gardens at Larkspur Hollow in the Hockley Valley.

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