Friday, April 6, 2012

Be aware of the BAD Rhubarb

Since we may have some freezes still coming/ or have had some already,  I thought I would pass this along. I got ths info from a newsletter that was sent to me. I LOVE rhubarb- could eat it for days! LOL They are a wonderful food, paired with strawberries they are divine!!! You can also make really cool birdbaths  by using their leaves. I always like to freeze some rhubbarb to have during the long winter- but I hate to use it because I never get enough from the little plants that I have. So hey if anyone has an over abundance of rhubarb that they do not want or can't use please let me know.

 "In response to freezing temperatures, the oxalic acid in the leaves will translocate (move) to the rhubarb stalk. Once frozen, the leaf tissue will initially appear 'water soaked' and then wilt, and eventually blacken along the edges or where tissue was damaged. Once the plant experiences a damaging freeze, the stalks should not be eaten, and should be removed from the plant.
 "Eventually a new set of leaves will emerge, and no permanent damage is done to the plant. "
U of I Extension Specialist Warns Against Eating Frost-Damaged Rhubarb

"Rhubarb should not be harvested when the leaves are wilted and limp after a hard freeze," warns Elizabeth Wahle, University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist. "Not only do the leafstalks acquire a poor flavor and texture, but the leaves and eventually the stem may become toxic."

Wahle says rhubarb leaves should never be eaten, and petioles (the part you eat) should be harvested ONLY from plants that have suffered no frost damage. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, a toxic substance that may move into the petioles after frost damage. When consumed, the oxalic acid can crystallize in the kidneys and cause permanent damage to the organs.

All petioles that have been exposed to freezing temperatures should be removed and discarded. The re-growth is safe to eat. As normal harvest begins, always leave at least one-third of the petioles un-harvested to sustain the plant.

Asparagus harvest has been interrupted by the recent cold weather as well. Unlike rhubarb, asparagus does not become toxic after exposure to freezing temperatures. In fact, rhubarb is one of the few crops that have this characteristic.
My final word of wisdom would be- when in doubt about anything plant like call your local Ag station or extension office. We have a wonderful Ag station here in the Spooner area that covers Sawyer, Washburn and Burnett county and they can answer so many questions. Also the Master Gardeners are linked through the Spooner Ag Station- they are always a WEALTH of information! If something has eaten the plant- dog or child then call poison control and get them to a doctor.

Until next time... enjoy your day.

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