Rhubarb is a cool season crop that requires temperatures below 40°F to break dormancy and to stimulate good spring growth. For growth to remain vigorous, summer temperatures should average less than 75°F. This means that the Northern U.S. and Canada are best suited for rhubarb production.
It is best to wait until the second year before harvesting stalks and even then, be conservative so as not to put undue stress on the developing root systems. Pull the stalks with a slight twisting motion instead of cutting. Remove flower stalks as soon as you see them as the process of going to seed saps energy from the plants. Don't plan on getting your first full harvest until after the third year. Rhubarb plantings will be productive for fifteen years or longer.
- The Rhubarb Compendium: A single subject web site on, as the title implies, everything to do with Rhubarb. From cultivation to harvest, preservation and even a recipe database, this is a great site to learn about rhubarb.
- "Rhubarb, Texas Style," by Skip Richter, Texas Gardener Magazine, July / August 2003.
General Poisoning Notes for Rhubarb
The plant contains oxalate crystals, which have been reported to cause poisoning when large quantities of raw or cooked leaves are ingested. Anthraquinones (glycosides) have been implicated more recently in the poisoning. The stalks are widely used as preserves and are also eaten raw, without problems. The toxic content is much lower in the stalks. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting the leaves. Human poisoning was a particular problem in World War I, when the leaves were recommended as a food source in Britain. Some animals, including goats and swine, have also been poisoned by ingesting the leaves. Children should be taught to eat only the rhubarb stalks, preferably under supervision (Robb 1919; Cooper and Johnson 1984).References:
- "Poisonous Plants in Britain and Their Effects on Animals and Man," M. R. Cooper and A. W. Johnson, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England, 1984.
- "Death from Rhubarb Leaves Due to Oxalic Acid Poisoning," H. F. Robb, Journal of American Medicine Association, 73: 627-628, 1919.
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