I noticed the commercial rhubarb fields in the valley are being harvested. Acres and acres of rows are cut off the plant with machetes, the leaves are removed leaving the stem of the rhubarb to be tossed into large totes throughout the field.
The stems are shipped all over the United States. Much of the fruit is made into desserts, jams and syrups. Most of the time it is mixed with strawberries to calm the tart flavor of the rhubarb. My family happen to be rhubarb purists and don’t like mixing other fruits with the rhubarb (other than a little lemon or orange juice crystals added to make the flavor pop).
The leaves of the rhubarb contain oxalic acid and should be avoided by humans and cattle. However the toxicity is low and an average human would have to eat more than 11 lbs. of leaves to suffer demise from rhubarb. An upset stomach would prohibit that amount of ingestion but still I don’t let any leaves get around people or cows.
In the garden, I cut about half of the rhubarb off this one plant. Since I don’t throw the leaves over the fence into the pasture, I used the big leaves as a weed barrier around the base of the Honeycrisp Apple tree. The leaves will stay under the tree and decompose as the summer wears on.
The tree is not bothered by the acid and the wilting leaves become a ground cover to snuff out weed and grass growth so I don’t have to trim, mow or pull weeds for the rest of the summer in this area.
Recipes for rhubarb will be coming in future posts.