The start of summer always brings fresh rhubarb to the home gardens of many Alaskans. The perennial stalk grows wild all over the state, making it relatively easy to get hands on the tart, but versatile produce.
Rhubarb can be harvested throughout the first half of summer, when desired, according to information packets from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension. To harvest simply pull the stalks out from the base, using a twisting motion. The leaves aren’t safe to eat, so cut those off and wash the stalks.
Stalks can vary in length and width, but generally four stalks can yield about 2 cups of diced rhubarb.
Freshly harvested rhubarb can be refrigerated for several days, but any longer and it needs to be preserved through freezing, drying or canning methods, according to the cooperative extension.
The stalks, which look similar to large celery stalks, pair well with sweet fruits like strawberries, which cut the rhubarb’s tartness.
It’s common to find rhubarb paired with strawberries in a pie or a crumble, but the stalks can also be used for more savory dishes, like a rhubarb vinaigrette for salads or even a barbecue sauce.
Next week, the public has more opportunities to learn about the possibilities of rhubarb. The cooperative extension is hosting a free Rhubarb-Palooza event.
Residents are invited to bring trimmed, clean rhubarb to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, from 3 to 6 p.m., during the Farmers Fresh Market on Tuesday, June 25. Don McNamara and Donna Rae Faulkner of Oceanside Farms will be using their commercial-grade hydraulic fruit grinder to press stalks of rhubarb into fresh juice. There will be samples of the juice available at the event. People can bring any amount of rhubarb they desire, but approximately 13 pounds of rhubarb will yield one gallon of juice. Residents need to bring their own vessels to take home their juice.
A press release from the cooperative extension says the goal of the event is to inspire and promote more uses for Alaska grown rhubarb.
The cooperative extension has released several documents to aid Alaskans in the growing, harvesting and cooking preparations for rhubarb, which will be available at Tuesday’s event.