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Harvest rhubarb - the best time

Rhubarb is not a fruit, even though it is used as such in the kitchen, but a vegetable. Its tart, sour taste is certainly not for everyone, but sets interesting accents and can be used in a variety of ways quite early in the year. There are many rumors and half-truths about the best harvest time, which we want to clarify here.

harvest time

When can be harvested?

Depending on the climatic region and the prevailing weather, the rhubarb bush sprout as early as March. Wait a few more weeks until the first harvest. The perennial should already have some strong stems. It should be April by now, the stalks feel smooth and are fresh green or bright red, depending on the variety. The young stalks taste best, the leaves should just have unfolded. The main harvest time is in May, but a rich harvest can often still be expected in June. From Johanni, June 24th, the harvest season traditionally comes to an end.


Is there a difference between harvesting old and young plants?

If you have just planted your rhubarb bush, then you should avoid harvesting completely in the first year. This allows the perennial to grow into a strong and robust plant quite quickly. In the second year, harvest only a few stalks so as not to overly weaken the perennial. A normal harvest is possible in all subsequent years, but you should never harvest the plant completely.

Harvest Tips

How should it be harvested?

It is best for the plant if you grasp the stalks to be harvested relatively far down and carefully twist them out. In this way, the pole breaks at the thinnest point and the plant is not injured, as would happen if it were cut off. Germs could easily penetrate through the cut surface and weaken the perennial. In addition, the particularly tasty and tender root base is retained by unscrewing. Cut off the inedible leaf, it can be left on the bed as fertilizer or thrown on the compost.

The most important harvesting tips:

  • Always unscrew the rods, do not cut them
  • take young spears
  • cut off leaves
  • not harvest after Johanni

Not harvest

Why shouldn't we harvest after Johanni?

There are two reasons why rhubarb should no longer be harvested from the end of June. One is the oxalic acid found in the bars. It is toxic in high amounts, but you can hardly consume enough rhubarb to feel any effects. However, as the year goes on, the oxalic acid content in the plant increases, while at the same time the taste decreases. In addition, the sticks are becoming increasingly woody and fibrous, which further reduces the enjoyment.

The second reason not to harvest after Johanni is the vitality of the perennial. The harvest time starts quite early in the year and the perennial should be able to recover extensively until the next harvest. Let your rhubarb bush grow and bloom undisturbed. In autumn it pulls in its leaves and survives the coming winter with strong roots.

increase harvest

How can I increase the harvest quantity?

If you want to start the rhubarb harvest particularly early, then cover your perennials with plant fleece as early as January. A thick layer of horse manure also works well. If the spring is very dry, water the plants as soon as you have removed the fleece.

When flowering begins, break out the first rhubarb blossoms as soon as they appear, this will put more strength into the stems. Never harvest the entire perennial, leave about a third of the plant standing so it can regenerate better and recover for the next harvesting season.


How can I use my rhubarb in the kitchen?

The tart-sour rhubarb stalks can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen or eaten raw in small quantities. Simply dip a freshly harvested (and peeled) stick in sugar and take a hearty bite. Incidentally, the red rhubarb varieties taste milder than the green ones, and often contain less of the not harmless oxalic acid.

Make jam, maybe mixed with strawberries, flavored with vanilla, cloves, cinnamon or ginger. If you prefer it hearty, then use the finely chopped sticks to cook a hearty, spicy chutney, which you can spice up with chili to suit your taste. But rhubarb can also be processed excellently into compote or juice, but is also suitable as a cake topping. A rhubarb spritzer is certainly a welcome refreshment on a hot day.

oxalic acid

How do I reduce the intake of oxalic acid?

Eat little or no raw rhubarb stalks. If you peel the sticks beforehand, you consume significantly less oxalic acid. Use your rhubarb as early as possible in the year when the acidity is still relatively low. Never eat the leaves of the perennial, they are considered poisonous and contain a lot of this acid. If your kidney function is restricted or you are prone to kidney stones, then do not eat raw rhubarb stalks and only eat small amounts of the vegetable, even when heated. The same applies to young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

The oxalic acid content in the vegetables is also reduced by heating, it goes into the cooking water. Briefly blanch your rhubarb stalks and discard the cooking water. However, you will also lose some of the vitamins and minerals it contains. If you eat rhubarb dishes together with milk or milk products, then the oxalic acid reacts with the calcium it contains. The resulting calcium oxalate is excreted.

Minimize Oxalic Acid Consumption:

  • do not eat raw sticks
  • Peel sticks before eating
  • Heat the rhubarb
  • only take young spears
  • Harvest early in the year

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