How We Use Rhubarb

This crop is one we always have an abundance of but rarely asked for.

One entire end of our garden is full of rhubarb that is harvested three or four times each year. Most people don’t like it because it so sour. I’ve learned a couple of tricks since we started raising it that makes it hard to turn down.

I use the leaves which are huge on the plant are cut off and reintroduced into the patch to keep the weeds down like a mulch. They are poisonous, the substances present in the plant leaves are oxalic acid and anthraquinone glycosides. The stalks and roots are not poisonous.

Now, how to cook them. Cut the stalks into one-inch cubes after you have thoroughly washed them. Put in a pan with just enough water to keep them from burning, very little water (1/4 inch, at most) and cook over medium heat and watch carefully. When fully cooked add about two cups of sugar and stir to dissolve. Now here’s the trick, add your favorite box of flavored gelatin and stir to incorporate. We love strawberry or raspberry but have used grape and blackberry as well. The gelatin thickens the rhubarb and adds a wonderful flavor. It’s wonderful addition to our morning breakfast, on hot biscuits like jelly, also unique in a rollup cake!

If friends and neighbors want some this spring let me know because we have a lot in the freezer. We didn’t share a lot because we were only allowing family on the farm due to Covid. If friends will contact me, I’ll cut it and leave in bags for drive up delivery at the end of the driveway!!! I’ll be posting when it’s available.

This was our first setting and now the entire end of the garden is full of rhubarb. This photo shows it half grown for the first harvest of the spring.


I’m thinking ahead to spring when it gets so frigid that you want to bring the cows in!!  One of the first crops we see here in mid to late May is rhubarb.  A lot of folks don’t like rhubarb because its so tart but I have a remedy for that.  Before I give you that little tidbit let me tell you what I did last summer before the first leaves of rhubarb showed itself.

For two years I had not cut as much rhubarb as I thought there should have been.  I used a huge tractor tire for the rhubarb bed because moles kept eating the tubers when I planted them directly in the ground.  I placed the tire on the edge of the garden where it would get lots of son and on top of some heavy black garden fabric that I folded to fit several times to keep the moles out.  It worked!

The tire was filled with good soil and chicken litter and four rhubarb tubers.  The tubers produced but the stems were thin and spindly.  In the spring of 2018 I decided to thin the tubers and see if that helped and I was also concerned that maybe I had amended the soil with too much litter.  I cleaned up two more areas on both sides of the tire of weeds and only amended that soil with some rabbit litter but not much!

This area was filled with two tubers of rhubarb taken from the first tire.

This area was filled with tubers from some old plants from our Ruble farm and some from the mansion garden.


Neither of these areas produced anything but I kept them moist and sprinkled with epsom salt in hopes of new rhubarb patches in spring 2019.

The original tire went crazy!!  I took off three batches of rhubarb and we have plenty in the freezer for the coming year and the year after that.

Early batches of the thinned patch proved to be the best move I could have made!

Three fresh baskets of rhubarb and homemade rhubarb freezer jam!!

Now for my recipe for the freezer rhubarb jam:

5-6 c. of fresh rhubarb, cut in 1″ cubes

Water, just enough to keep the rhubarb from sticking in sauce pan

2 c. sugar

1  3 oz. pkg. of strawberry jello, cherry, raspberry, or even blackberry

Cook the rhubarb in the water until soft.  Add sugar and take off the stove; stir to combine and sugar is completely melted.  Add the jello, stir and cool completely.  I then pour into small containers and freeze.  It’s wonderful on biscuits, bagels, toast and fresh sliced bread.

Overgrown Rhubarb

Three years ago I bought some rhubarb tubers for my garden.

New rhubarb started in 2015,

We had some extra old tractor tires that I decided to use for the rhubarb bed.  I didn’t put them directly in the ground because we have such a problem with wire grass.  Wire grass regenerates itself by spread roots underground and it’s really hard to get completely out of any garden bed and flower bed.  I laid black cloth under the tire and then filled it with garden soil and manure from my chickens and rabbits and mixed it up really good.

I expected it to grow but not as much as it did.  The tire bed is 12 inches deep and  44 inches around.  Three years later the bed is too crowded and my rhubarb it way too thick.  I dug out two of the four plants in the bed and and divided the tubers into six pieces each and started a new bed near our quince tree in the corner of the garden.

One small patch beside the tire bed. I cleaned out all the grass, worked up the soil with a spade and fork and added a little dirt from the garden edges.

The tubers are 12 inches apart  in  up and down the bed and across the bed.  I fenced it off to keep the chickens from digging it up since we haven’t fenced off the garden yet.

Wonderfully rich soil and some rain showers should give the new beds a great start. I don’t expect to get anything from them this year but next spring should prove very fruitful if the weather cooperates this year.

The tubers in the tire bed have twice the room to grow and now maybe they won’t bloom as quickly.

Now there are only two bunches of rhubarb in the tire. I will probably have to pull one bunch out again next year. We’ll see how it goes!

The rhubarb stalks were getting about 8 inches long and then blooming, not good!!  I always pull off the blooms to send the energy to the stalks.

I froze a lot of rhubarb last year.  My favorite recipe is to clean and cut the stalks into one inch cubes (about four cups)  and pour just enough water over the cubes in a saucepan and slow cook until the rhubarb cooks up.  I take it off the heat and add two cups of sugar and box of our favorite jello.  We especially like strawberry or raspberry jello but I’ve also used cherry or blackberry, yum!!  Let it cool completely in the pan and serve.  This usually makes enough for four pints of fruited rhubarb and I pour it in plastic tubs and freeze three of them.  It freezes well and it’s fantastic to eat like applesauce or on toast like jams/jellies.  DELIGHTFUL!

Adding To Our Fruit Crop

Apple crops
Apple crops

Grape arbor in the backyard.
Grape arbor in the backyard.

Every spring I try to add 2-4 new fruit trees to our dwindling orchards.  The past few years have been apples and peaches.  My daughter got me two new cherry trees for our anniversary and they’ve been planted in the back of the apple orchard and fenced to keep the deer from eating them up.  Last year I planted four new grape vines along with some English walnut trees .  All of the grapes have survived but I lost one walnut tree.

This year I ordered two Green Gage Plum  trees and two Black Tartarian Cherry  trees from  Aaron’s Farm ( .  The plum trees are three years old and about four feet tall and the cherry trees are three years old and 5-6 feet tall.  The were shipped bare root and pre-pruned.  We set them out yesterday evening and watered them well which I will continue to do daily until we get some rain and there after as needed daily or weekly depending on the moisture in the ground.

The Green Gage plum tree is an ancient European plum descendant that has been extensively grown and propagated in England and France since the 1700’s. My grandparents had these plums on their farm in Paint Bank, VA for years when I was a young child and we would eat them until they ran out our ears.  I’ve not seen any for years and have been looking for them for about five years and lucked out with Aaron’s Farms this spring.  I can’t wait to have some “green gages” in a couple of years.  Green Gage plums are green-skinned when completely ripe with a pink overlay at the base of the fruit when tree ripened.  The flavor is deliciously sweet with a slight sour taste to the skin.

The black cherries are my husbands favorite and most of the cherry trees on our farm have died or only produce pea size cherries.  I’m hoping these will bring back some good memories especially when I make him some cherry pies in a couple of years.

Black Tartarian Cherry Tree

The Black Tartarian Cherry tree is a sweet cherry with a black skin and bright red pulp. They  are cold hardy which is one of the reasons I chose this type.
I can’t remember the name of the cherry trees my daughter got for me but think they are a red cherry.
Now we have blue plum, wild red plums, pears, rhubarb, peaches, apples of all kinds, grapes, gojiberries, blackberries, and raspberries on the farm.  Plenty of fruit to add to our meals and snacks.Newest grape arborNewest grape arbor

Changes to the garden and tire beds

Hubby has been working on fences again in the last week and he tore out the east end fence around our garden because it was about to fall down.

tractor tires used for garlic, strawberries and rhubarb
tractor tires used for garlic, strawberries and rhubarb

fencing between yard and garden
fencing between yard and garden

He decided that the fence didn’t keep out the deer so he would not replace it.  We have now moved the large tire planters to the south garden fence and will plant fruit trees along the yard where the fence used to be.  We currently have three pear trees along this line, two grape vines and a blue plum.  On the North end of the garden we’ve planted three peach trees and cut down an old plum tree that died.  I want to put in two more peach trees on that North end, two more plum trees out the fence line and plant two or three cherry trees in the yard close to the pond.  All of the apple trees that used to be there except one have died and been taken out.  These trees we replace will all be of the semi-dwarf size except maybe the cherry because of the space and closeness to the garden.  We don’t want the shade from the trees to shade the garden from the morning sun.  Hopefully hubby and I will be around when they start bearing fruit.

The apple tree rootstock we planted last year have all survived the winter, rabbits and deer and it’s now time to graft them.  We think moving our hound dogs to the apple orchard have saved our new trees from the ravages of the wildlife.  We just hope the wildlife doesn’t realize the dogs can’t reach them as long as they are chained.

Space between yard and garden cleared of  fencing
Space between yard and garden cleared of fencing

Freshly plowed garden lot
Freshly plowed garden lot

Tire planters moved to new area
Tire planters moved to new area

Strawberries starting to green up.
Strawberries starting to green up.

Garlic coming up.  Love that stuff!!
Garlic coming up. Love that stuff!!

Rhubarb coming in but frost burnt the leaves badly.  I'll clip the leaves and start fresh after this weeks frost pass.
Rhubarb coming in but frost burnt the leaves badly. I’ll clip the leaves and start fresh after this weeks frost pass.

Quince tree in south west corner of garden.
Quince tree in south west corner of garden.

Pear trees sprouting.
Pear trees sprouting.


We try very hard to replace our fruit trees as the old one’s die which hasn’t been done for many years.  We want the future family members to have plenty of these crops on hand for their use well after we are gone!  If we don’t take care of the future generations, who will??

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