Tag Archives: edible perennials

Poisonous Leaves & Pie Filling

I’d like to introduce you to our new friend, Crimson. This is allegedly the best red-stalked variety of rhubarb to grow in the Pacific Northwest. I cannot independently verify this claim. Some people say it’s the only rhubarb cultivar of consequence in the PNW.

Rhubarb is a weird thing to grow. It’s a perennial, so if you don’t kill it, you should have it forever. It can get rowdy and take over, so you should contain it. It demands thinning and rejuvenation every 4 or 5 years. The leaves are poisonous and the roots are poisonous, like all rhubarb I know of, due to high concentrations of oxalic acid. Don’t ask me how we humans figured out the stems were good if the leaves and roots have corrosive acid in them. It is safe to compost, however, since you don’t eat your compost. If you do eat compost, please stop. Of course, you have to eat something like 5k of leaves, or cook them with soda water, to make them really toxic to a human, but let’s leave that to the professionals. With all that said, my darling precious wife loves strawberry rhubarb pie, so I’m planting rhubarb (and strawberries, of course, but that’s another issue entirely).

I had the good fortune to find some root chunks at my favorite local organic nursery, Black Lake Organic. I checked with Krista to make sure she still liked rhubarb, and then tossed a few chunks into my cardboard box (the gardener’s answer to the shopping cart). Now we just have to, uh, plant them, I think.

Side note: “root chunks?” The Rhubarb Propagation Committee needs to get together and develop a more attractive name for this. Chunks? No one wants to grow chunks. Public Image make-over, stat.

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Filed under food, garden, spring, urban farming