Rhubarbs are hardy plants that can survive the cold very well. They require very little maintenance, and are great condiments for deserts. Come harvest season, all which is required by the gardener is to cut the entire plant early spring. You can also divide the plant to share with others or to increase the rhubarb patch.
The harvest of rhubarbs runs from April to September (in the US). However, through force growing, rhubarbs are available all year round (see chapter on rhubarb force growing). They are also very hardy plants that can tolerate cold temperatures well (down to -20 F) and can still be eaten as long as the stalks are still firm and upright.
Any stalks that are soft and mushy must not be consumed as this may be caused by oxalic acid crystals in the leaves migrating to the stalks. These stalks should be removed and added to the compost bin.
Harvest the stalks from the outer part of the plant. Choose large stalks and cut with a knife near the base on top of the soil line. You can also pull out the stalks individually. Harvest takes between 4- 6 weeks for each growth season. Remove the leaf after you\’ve harvested the stalk.
There is a variety of ways you can store rhubarb. This depends on how long you want to store them and what you will be utilizing them for later. Below list a few ways; refrigerating, freezing, dry pack or syrup pack, and drying.
Refrigerating your rhubarb will allow you to keep them for about a week or two. All you have to do is to wrap the stalks in aluminum foil and place in the crisper (the vegetable area) in the fridge.
Freezing is recommended for longer storage of about 9-12 months. Chop the stalks into the size you might use for a specific recipe. Place a wax paper on a tray and spread a single layer of cut stalks. Freeze the layer. When the stalks are frozen, divide them into individual freezer bags by the measurement required in a recipe. Vacuum pack and place the bags back into the freezer.
- Dry Pack or Syrup Pack Method
Wash and cut the stalks (make sure you choose the ones with good flavor and few fibers) into length to fit into its packing container. Bring a pot of water to boil. Prepare a bowl of cold water next to the pot. Scald the cut stalks in the boiling water for one minute then transfer immediately to cold water. This helps retain color and flavor of the rhubarb.
The dry pack method does not use sugar. The rhubarbs are tightly packed into containers (with the appropriate head space), sealed and popped into the freezer. The syrup pack method uses cold 40 percent syrup. Like the dry pack method, the rhubarbs are packed into containers with the syrup (and appropriate head space), sealed and frozen.
Refer to the table below for the appropriate amount of head space required between packed food and closure.
|Type of Pack|
Container with wide top opening
Container with narrow top opening
1 1/2 inch
The syrup used for the syrup pack method can vary between very light (10%) to very heavy (50%) syrup depending on requirement or desire.
Sealing the containers (or called canning) can be done in two ways – boiled hot water or pressure canning. You need approximately 10-1/2 pounds of rhubarb for each container load of 7 quarts; or 7 lbs per container load of 9 pints.
Recommended process time for Rhubarb, stewed in a boiling-water canner
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack
0 – 1,000 ft
1,001 – 6,000 ft
Above 6,000 ft
Pints or Quarts
Process Times for Rhubarb in a Dial-Gauge Pressure Canner
Canner Pressure (PSI)
Style of Pack
Process Time (Min)
0 – 2,000 ft
2,001 – 4,000 ft
4,001 – 6,000 ft
6,001 – 8,000 ft
Pints or Quarts
Clean the stalks and cut off the pulpy ends. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch strips or 1/2-inch cubes. When you dry rhubarbs, you should decrease some of the acidity in the stalks by pouring boiling water over the cut pieces and allow it to sit for about 3 to 5 minutes.
This also reduces the amount of sugar needed to counter the acidity. Drain after 5 minutes.
Note: frozen rhubarb should not be thawed and can be used frozen in the recipe.
Rhubarbs can be used in a variety of way in recipes, but they are mainly known for deserts like jelly, used as a base in pies, and cakes. Once you have stored your rhubarb, you can have the leisure time of figuring out which way you would like to prepare it.
Rhubarb – Selecting and Storing: