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Sure, we’ve all tried and loved Grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie. What we didn’t know as we were spooning that delicious, tarty goodness into our mouths were the favors we were paying to our bodies. This extraordinary plant produces poisonous leaves, toxic to humans and animals alike, yet its stems are full of rich flavor and nutrients. Rhubarb is a plant often underappreciated— a plant whose versatility, flavor, and health benefits constantly remain overlooked. It’s time to pay homage to our dear old friend by exposing some facts about its nature.
A Great Garden Tenant
For starters, rhubarb is one of the easiest plants to grow in a home garden because it needs little attention. In fact, if you’re cramped for space, you can even craft your own gardening pot to plant your rhubarb crowns. Rhubarb should ideally be planted in early spring when summer is still a lingering temptation, gracing plant life with milder heat and ample sunshine. Simply find an area in your garden that is regularly illuminated by the afternoon sun. Rhubarb will survive in areas that are sometimes shady as well, but sunlight does wonders for its growth. This magical plant responds well to almost any soil conditions, although fertilizer is highly recommended. Fertilizer guarantees that the rhubarb will receive all the nutrients it needs in order to flourish, so donate compost or manure to your soil at the beginning of the season. This low-maintenance plant only requires compost once or twice a year.
After you’ve prepared the soil, plant your rhubarb so that their crowns are on par with the soil. It requires minimal attention after planting. If you keep a close eye on your rhubarb, you should be able to observe when it requires more water than it’s receiving from rainfalls. When its roots begin to mold or look soggy, give the watering a rest. If it looks like it’s wilting or the soil becomes dry, give the soil a decent soak. If you listen to your rhubarb, it will tell you how to treat it.
Always remember to allow the plant to establish its roots before you harvest it. As a perennial plant, it will grace you with its presence year after year if you allow it time for the roots to firmly establish. If it’s your first time growing this plant, don’t harvest its crop the first year. Allow its roots to permanently inhabit the soil and start collecting your efforts the second year of growth. Patience is rewarding when tending to this crop. By only harvesting a small amount of stalks in the second year, future growths will be abundant.
The Benefits Of Rhubarb In The Kitchen
So you’ve prepared the soil, donated the compost, and waited for the appropriate harvest time—now what? Well, now you’re free to enjoy the benefits of all your hard work! Select the juicy-looking stalks from your plant, and with a firm grip near the base of the stalk, carefully twist it away from the soil. It’s important to select the best-looking rhubarb. To distinguish flavorful rhubarb from dull or dry stalks, take a good hard look at the stalks themselves. The best tasting rhubarbs will appear shiny and youthful. It should look as crisp and glistening as a stalk of celery. Beware of stalks that appear chewy or flaccid, as they won’t provide the best ingredients for any recipe you have in mind. Here we have the second advantage of rhubarb: it’s versatility. Rhubarb can be made into bread, pies, soups, stews, and even candies.
Again, it’s very important to discard the leaves and roots of rhubarb. These pieces of the plant are very dangerous and will be toxic if ingested. After you have only the stalks left, wash them thoroughly. Now it’s time to decide how you want to prepare your newest fruitful endeavor. Usual preparation for rhubarb includes jams or sauces. These are classic ways to enjoy the crop, and you can’t go wrong piling a sweet rhubarb sauce onto some vanilla ice cream on a hot summer evening.
The simplest way to make a sauce is to begin by chopping the rhubarb into pieces that measure to about half an inch. After you’ve chopped roughly a pound of rhubarb, combine it with sugar and water in a stovetop pan. Although you can sweeten the rhubarb to your taste, usually half a cup of both sugar and water should do the trick. As an extra additive, butter can give a creamy element to your sauce. Bring all of these ingredients to a boil and then let them simmer until your homegrown rhubarb has become soft.
Now that your perennial rhubarbs will blossom for the next ten to fifteen years, you can begin experimenting with preparation. It’s easy to develop a taste for the savory plant, supplementing it in other recipes. You can even start to prepare delicious juice or punch using your new plant. Having this plant in your home will inspire creativity in the kitchen as you explore all the different ways it’s useful.
The Health Benefits
Still not convinced that rhubarb packs a mighty punch? Just wait until you hear about its health benefits. What most people don’t know about rhubarb is just how good for you it really is. Joining its pal the tomato, rhubarb borders the line between fruit and vegetable. We just can’t seem to deny that its growth and appearance seem to indicate it’s a vegetable; yet, its preparation renders it closer to the family of fruits. Either way, rhubarb has content that shouldn’t be ignored.
We’re constantly slammed with reminders to eat our vegetables and fruit, keep up with our vitamin intake, and don’t you dare forget about that calcium! Whether on a mission to trim our waists or simply looking to up our intake of vitamins, rhubarb is there to help. In one cup of rhubarb, there are only twenty-six measly calories that come along with it. Not only that, but rhubarb provides you with your daily dose of dietary fiber, keeping your digestive system regular and cleansing any toxins from your colon. Rhubarb contains vitamin A, which aids in healthy eyesight, and vitamin C, which supports the functions of the immune system. Rhubarb also contains potassium, and the health benefits of this nutrient are endless. They include balancing blood pressure, controlling anxiety and stress, and keeping the body functioning at its best.
There’s no excuse not to begin a rhubarb-growing project. Decorate a planting pot for your house or clear out a spot in your garden. You won’t be able to help feeling accomplished and satisfied once you see your delicious, juicy rhubarb begging to be concocted into a creative dish.