How to Harvest Rhubarb the Right Way (Hint: Don’t Cut It!)
Don't cut those rhubarb stalks! Here's why it's a bad idea, and how to harvest rhubarb the right way.
That rhubarb in your garden is ready—so what’s the best way to harvest? Depending on where you learned how to harvest rhubarb, you might assume that it’s fine to simply cut the stalks off. But wait! Harvest rhubarb the right way—it’s easy to do and best of all, it benefits the plant. (Psst! Learn how to grow rhubarb in your own backyard.)
Leave that knife in the drawer. It’s all about the pull and twist! When stalks are sliced off with a knife, the part of the stalk left behind withers away… and that’s it. In contrast, twisting and pulling off the stalk allows it to separate from the bottom of the plant near the roots. This tells the plant to regrow a new stalk in its place, giving you a more fruitful harvest and a healthier rhubarb plant.
How to Harvest Rhubarb
Find a stalk on your rhubarb plant that’s ready to be picked. Grasp the stalk near the bottom. Lean it to the side and in one motion gently twist and pull the stalk up. The stalk will pop and separate from the rhubarb plant at the root, and come cleanly away.
The twisting and pulling motion should be gentle. If the rhubarb stalk doesn’t come away immediately, grasp it lower and try leaning it in the other direction. If you find that the whole plant is coming out of the ground when you pull the stalks, pack it more firmly into the soil around the roots.
Remember that only the rhubarb stalks are edible, so cut off the rhubarb leaves and discard them.
When to Harvest Rhubarb
Give new rhubarb plants at least a year before harvesting for the first time. When you’re looking at the stalks, the color doesn’t indicate readiness, so don’t worry if your rhubarb stalks are not completely red. Instead, look at the length. The stalks are ready to harvest when they’re between 7 and 15 inches long.
The best time to harvest rhubarb is during the months of May, June and early July. After this, it’s best to let the plant be, so it can regrow and recharge to survive the winter. You can cut the flower stalk away before it blooms to help extend the harvesting season.
When you’re gathering your rhubarb, remove no more than two-thirds of the plant. You want to be sure there’s some left to grow back next year!