Imagine: She wanted to serve a special meal to celebrate the spring season. Fresh asparagus, of course, and a salad of spring greens accented with pansies. But how to start things off? And what about dessert? Then her eyes settled on the rhubarb plant, and she thought, “Of course! A rhubarb-ginger cocktail, and a warm rhubarb crisp for dessert.”
Name: Rheum rhabarbarum aka garden rhubarb
Type of Plant: There aren’t many plants that are cultivated for the petioles only…petioles are the stems just under a leaf. But these very tough, perennial plants are prized for those stalks.
Why I love this plant: Rhubarb is a reliable, pretty perennial and the acidic stalks are tasty. You can eat them raw if you like sour flavors, but most people cook them with something sweet.
A Word to the Wise: Only eat the stems under the leaves…other parts of this plant are poisonous.
Cut off the flowers when they arise to encourage rhubarb plants to form more stems. These flowers are beautiful in bouquets, however, so don’t just toss them.
Some other plants also find rhubarb leaves to be toxic so when you harvest the petioles for pie or making syrups, lay the leaves down around the plant to suppress weeds.