Rheum rhabarbarum. What we call rhubarb. It is the thing of which pie makers dream about. They love paring of this tart vegetable – although for legal purposes is it considered a fruit – with berries – especially one with the name “straw” in them. Rhubarb is not available year round, at least in it’s fresh form. So one needs to know when can I get it and you might also want to know where it is grown.
Hothouse vs. Field Grown
First you need to know that there are two ways rhubarb is grown – in greenhouses or in the field. The hot house grown rhubarb shows up earlier in the year, naturally (or not naturally if it’s grown indoors?). I usually see it in the very early spring or even as early as late winter. Since rhubarb sales go up quite a deal in the presence of strawberries, when strawberries prices deep as they tend to do in March, you will naturally find more hothouse rhubarb available.
Hothouse rhubarb is usually more uniformly red in color. Some say it’s sweet and more tender too.
Field Grown Rhubarb
Most of the field grown rhubarb that is sold in the U.S. is from the Northern U.S., particularly Oregon and Washington. They are well suited to rhubarb production. The first field grown rhubarb typically shows up in late March to early April. Around this time the hothouse grown rhubarb is done, so their seasons may just barely overlap.
If you leave in a northern state you should be able to find it locally. Check your local farmer’s market in mid to late spring. Here in Michigan it lasts into June.
The season tends to slow down in the summer time, as the heat turns up. Rhubarb doesn’t grow as well in the heat. You should see how pathetic my rhubarb plants look in August! However, you may still see it into the summer as rhubarb does store well. You can freeze rhubarb as well for later use.
During the fall, you will be hard pressed to find it. I can’t recall ever seeing it. I don’t think there is much imported rhubarb, outside of maybe from Canada.
Grow It Yourself
Rhubarb is easy to grow yourself, depending on where you live. Those in the North can easily grow it. I never put much attention into my rhubarb plants and they come back year after year. I got the plants from a friend who just quickly dug a spot when I was home and planted them there.
If you live in the South, it will be more challenging. Your best plant transplants in fall, and harvest your stalks through the winter months. When the heat gets going, the plants will die off and you have to plant anew.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Muffins | Every year I can’t wait to make these. I like them better than pie!
Pluot Rhubarb Crisp | Try pairing rhubarb with other fruits. They go well with some sweet pluots (a plum-apricot cross)