Rhubarb, you either like it or you don't.
In our home, we loved it! Grandma had a huge batch down by the garden edge. Most times we'd eat it raw, other times dipping one end in a bit of sugar. That memory makes my mouth pucker just thinking about it.
It wasn't until I married and we started a family that we obtained our first plant. A neighbor had given us a huge division from his wagon wheel-size patch. Then he did something I'd never seen. He brought over a bucket full of cow manure, got on his hands and knees and carefully scooped out and placed a large circle of that manure about 8 inches away from my new rhubarb plant. He taught me a valuable lesson that day. "Feed what will be feeding you in the future," he said.
For the past year, the Wood County Master Gardeners program offered through the University of Wisconsin has taught me much more about the rhubarb plant. A few topics covered were what type of soil conditions make for a successful harvest, do I plant it in full sun or part shade, and when should I think about dividing.
Growing rhubarb from seeds doesn't give you the results near as quickly as a division. We were advised to avoid harvesting the first year of planting, and to take just a few stems the second year. After that, you'll have enough to make pies, freeze or share with your neighbor!
We also were cautioned not to eat the leaves of this plant as they are poisonous.
I found out that rhubarb is about the easiest plant to grow that there is. It loves sunshine, needs to receive an adequate amount of moisture, and, yes indeed, needs to be fed. Before too long, we were making rhubarb sauce, rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, apple-rhubarb pie, rhubarb jam and, my personal favorite, rhubarb juice.
There are many folks reading this article who would probably agree with me that the sauce has a great way of being a spring tonic in the middle of the worst of winters. As you take those first bites, your mind can't help but see those long, large leafed stalks being pulled or twisted away from the base. Seems like spring right there in the middle of winter!
No matter how you use up your rhubarb stalks, please take a minute to cherish the memories that come to mind. Better yet, pass on a new memory onto a child, a neighbor or a friend.