Rhubarb in NC

love2gardenncApril 4, 2009

I bought a rhubarb plant a few years ago and have divided it over the years but only once tried to cook some of it. Is it the climate here or the variety, it wasn't just sour but SOUR, sugar won't do a thing. It also does not turn a real red as did the rhubarb where I lived in Canada. We are only in the first week in April and my rhubarb is putting up what I can only describe as seed stalks, is this right? My mother might have cut back this seed stalk so perhaps this is normal.

Thanks for any guidance you can offer. I have a son who really wants a rhubarb pie and I would love to think that someday I might be able to bake one for him.

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I live on the southside of Raleigh and I grow it in my garden. It is not reliably perennial. I can usually get it to come through the summer heat once and then it usually dies on its second summer (summer heat is the problem with growing it here). I just buy another batch of roots mid winter when I lose it. This year was a root replacement year. I found some 'Canadian Red' and 'Victoria' which are the two types that I can find locally. Of the two 'Victoria' does the best but it isn't always red stalked or even pink. But it does vary so some plants have more red in them. I've been told that green stalked rhubarb is better at handling summer heat.

Mine is sour but not super sour. I will add that it doesn't always have the special flavor that I taste with garden fresh rhubarb up north. Its close but not the same.

Occasionally I see an ornamental rhubarb for sale at the big box stores, often sold as Chinese Rhubarb. It is not a variety meant to be eaten, it is grown purely as a decorative plant - so I wouldn't eat it.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 9:01AM
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Tammy Kennedy

I grew up eating rhubarb up north and it is very very sour! It takes a lot of sugar to cut the sour to edible levels. But that special tang is what makes it worth it. You can try combining it with strawberries- a classic combination, or cherries. That cuts some of the tang without losing the taste. It's also good in claufoutis, sort of like bread pudding.

Some years it does bloom, and yes, you cut off the stalk. I don't know if blooming will affect the flavor or not. Up theer we typically only harvested it in the spring- but i know some folks do all summer. It gets tougher and possibly more sour as the summer goes on.

Good for you that you've kept it going so long. If you ever decide to divide some, i would love to take some off your hands. I can't count how many times i've tried to grow it here from various sources and in various spots and failed. If you do a search, you'll see there are past threads that will attest there are plenty of us who'd love a 'barb that does well here, sour or no. :)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 10:33AM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

Unless you live in the mountains of NC where it does not get as hot and humid as it does in most of the rest of the state, rhubarb is marginal. It sulks in the heat and although I grew it for the leaves to be used in making hypertufa castings, I found it so unreliable that it was ejected from my garden.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 5:33PM
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okatie(8B SC)

I read somewhere that you can grow it in the south as an annual -- plant seeds in garden in late summer/fall, grow through winter, harvest when it starts getting hot in the late spring, and start again the fall. I want to try it but haven't gotten my act together yet! Anyone ever tried this?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 8:27PM
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Logan's in downtown Raleigh has seedlings for sale now. They are also a place that I will buy mature roots from, though I also buy some when I travel up north. Roots are most often only available in late winter.

I would think that the seedlings wouldn't get large enough after one winter, you would have to get them to survive many years to get them big enough to match the plants size you get by growing from roots.

When I first started growing them I planted them in different beds in my part sun yard. They only did good in beds with over 5 hours of sun (in June, the longest month of the year) - I could keep them alive in shadier beds but they never got big enough to harvest from. They seem to like rich very deep soil, ample moisture, full sun and cool temps. Even when I get plants to over winter they die completely back to the ground in the winter - they don't seem to grow much during this down time.

I've been told that many plants have a heat threshold sort of like the reverse of how a tulip bulb needs so many hours of temps below 40 degrees (chill hours) in order to bloom - only these plants have a limit of how many hours above 90 degrees they can handle. It would seem that rhubarb can take only one long summer in high heat or maybe one and a half.

I don't mind. The roots are usually around $5 for a packet with two plants worth and I can make about 5 pies from that many plants - which is all the rhubarb pie I want to eat.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 8:59PM
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Rhubarb will grow in the mountains of NC, but it is just too hot in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. My family is from Minnesota with a well-developed taste for rhubarb. We tried growing it in Atlanta when we lived there with no luck, but it grew well at our cabin up in the mountains.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 10:19AM
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When I started growing it years ago a number of people claimed to have relatives that successfully grew it for years. One very good friend who is a commercial organic farmer and really knows her plants said that she had a neighbor that had one large clump near her mailbox south of Chapel Hill (which is in the Piedmont). It survived for close to ten years before accidentally being mowed down by a tractor. So it can grow here but it isn't easy and it rarely acts the same as it does in the cooler parts of the world (to me it doesn't taste the same either, but it still tastes good).

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 12:58PM
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