When Should You Pick Rhubarb?
Grown for the tart flavor of its edible stalks, rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum) is a staple cool-season crop that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. It is picked primarily in spring when the stalks taste best, but can be harvested into summer. Consider other factors, too, when harvesting rhubarb, including the plant's age and the appearance of the leaves and stalks.
Rhubarb takes three years to mature and its stalks should not be harvested during its first two years in the garden. Harvest your first crop of rhubarb over a four-week period in early spring of its third year. From fourth year onward, harvest the leaves for eight to 10 weeks in spring.
What to Look For
Rhubarb stalks provide clues about when to harvest with their size and color. Harvest-ready stalks are 10 to 15 inches long with a diameter of 1/2 to 1 inch (Ref 3, "Rhubarb"). Varieties such as "Canada Red" (Rheum x cultorum "Canada Red") develop a red stalk at maturity while "Victoria" rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum "Victoria") has a speckled stalk that fades to green at the tip.
- Grown for the tart flavor of its edible stalks, rhubarb (Rheum x cultorum) is a staple cool-season crop that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8.
- Rhubarb takes three years to mature and its stalks should not be harvested during its first two years in the garden.
Pick Wild Rhubarb
Examine the wild rhubarb plant. When the leaves on one of its stalks start to expand in spring and summer, it is good time to harvest that stalk. Harvest a stalk when it matures to that stage rather than harvesting all the stalks at the same time because young stalks are more tender than older stalks. Hold the selected stalk with one hand, and use a knife in your other hand to slice off the stalk at its bottom.
- Cornell University Home Gardening: Rhubarb
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Rhubarb
- The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: A Donor's Guide to Vegetable Harvest
- Utah State University Extension: Rhubarb in the Garden
- The Wisconsin Master Gardener Program: Rhubarb
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Rhubarb Production in California
- Ohio State University Extension: Growing Rhubarb in the Home Garden
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Botany Plant Growth Facilities -- Genus Rheum
- Cornell University Department of Animal Science: Plants Poisonous to Livestock -- Rheum Palmatum and Rheum Rhabarbarum
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Questions on Rhubarb
Samantha McMullen began writing professionally in 2001. Her nearly 20 years of experience in horticulture informs her work, which has appeared in publications such as Mother Earth News.