Rhubarb is a great source of dietary fiber and helps resolve indigestion issues with its gentle laxative properties. It may also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The potassium supports proper nerve functioning and muscle contraction, including the heart. Vitamin C gives rhubarb antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties. Vitamin K with calcium adds to bone formation and helps prevent bone breakdown. Rhubarb is low in carbohydrates, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. It increases metabolic rate, which is excellent for eating while trying to lose weight. Rhubarb has antibacterial and antifungal properties that may help prevent infections. If applied topically, rhubarb prevents staph infection.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – K and C
Minerals – Calcium, Potassium, Manganese and Magnesium
Cholesterol lowering properties support a healthy cardiovascular system free of diseases like atherosclerosis. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that eliminates water-soluble free radicals, many of which may later contribute to cancer. C also protects blood vessels by helping prevent the formation of arterial plaque via its interactions with the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Vitamin C promotes heart health by stopping potentially fatal plaque-induced clots from causing a heart attack or a stroke. With vitamin K, calcium and manganese, regularly eating rhubarb may help prevent osteoporosis.
How to Grow
Rhubarb is an interesting food because it produces fruit, but we eat only the stems. It is an easy, long-lived perennial plant and very cold hardy. Harvest it toward the end of winter through the middle of summer. Prepare the soil by shifting the pH to 7 if not already there. Amend the area with a generous amount of aged compost, manure or highly fertile planting mix. Generally, gardeners do not need more than a few plants. If you want to grow many, plant individuals 2 feet apart in rows 3 feet apart. Depending on time of year, you may find root crowns or potted plants. In spring, or in pots before spring, plant root crowns in soil and cover with a thin layer. Keep the soil moist but never waterlogged. Weed the bed as needed. Let the plants continue to grow through the first year without harvesting. In the second season, harvest the larger stems first as needed, making sure not to take all the stems from one plant. Stems are ripe when they change from green to purplish red. After harvesting each year in the spring, apply another layer of compost or planting mix to promote healthy rejuvenation of reserves once more.
Common attacking insects include aphids. They are also susceptible to viruses. To deter aphids, companion plant marigolds. They attract both ladybugs and hover flies, which lay their larvae on colonies of aphids for food. They consume thousands this way. Or rinse off the aphids with a strong stream of water that does not damage the host plant. To avoid viruses, get the plant or seeds at a trustworthy nursery. Make sure there is good air circulation and do not waterlog the soil. Keep plants out of low, shady areas. Dispose of infected sections of plants immediately. If all else fails, spray with a copper- or sulfur-based treatment found at nurseries.
Enjoy the flowers in the summer time, but do not let the plants run to seed, as this greatly reduces the following harvest. Note: Never eat the leaves of rhubarb, as they contain very harmful toxins, especially if you eat significant amounts.