Valley Bounty: Rhubarb

David Kaskeski has been more than pleased with his rhubarb harvest this year. “Our rhubarb is really nice,” he told me during a recent conversation. “Great color, long stems, nice and sour.” It’s been a wet spring but Kaskeski’s rhubarb hasn’t minded. “The rain doesn’t seem to bother it whatsoever … it likes a lot of water.” Kaskeski grows a small patch of rhubarb at his farm, Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby. A perennial, rhubarb stalks began to burst through the soil early this spring. “They’re one of the first things up along with tulips and daffodils.” By the second week of May, Kaskeski had already kicked off the harvest.

“You really only have to plant rhubarb once and then you’ll have it for the rest of your life,” Kaskeski explained. Remarkably, growers can double the size of their patch each time rhubarb plants reach 5-6 years old. “You just take a spade, cut the crown in half, and then you can take that crown and plant it in another place.” Each halved crown will grow into its own full rhubarb plant, which can produce for over a decade!

In mid-June, the rhubarb stalks will begin to grow thin, signaling the end of this year’s harvest. Kaskeski is vigilant to cut off any flower buds that appear, as flowers divert energy away from the plants’ stalk and crown. For the rest of the summer, the rhubarb will build up its stores of energy until its leaves die back and dormancy arrives with the first frost.

We’re in the height of rhubarb season so pick some up from your local farm stand! Kaskeski recommends trying rhubarb as a quick, easy treat. “My favorite thing to do with rhubarb is the old-fashioned New England style. Get yourself a cup of sugar and dip a rhubarb stalk in it like a fun stick … it’s delicious, tastes just like apple pie!”

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)