Do you grow your own fruit and vegetables? If so, you’ll know that most cannot be harvested until the autumn, or summer at the earliest. But there is one plant which can be picked as early as April – rhubarb.
My father always grew rhubarb and one of my favourite childhood memories is eating it. My mum used to make rhubarb crumbles and rhubarb jams. We had so much of the stuff that sometimes we’d just eat it raw, dipping the end in an eggcup full of sugar!
In honour of this versatile plant, today’s Nature Matters is full of facts about rhubarb:
- Rhubarb is a perennial plant (comes up every year without planting). It can live for up to 15 years
- Though the stalks are delicious, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. They can cause difficulty in breathing, fits and even a coma – never eat them!
- The leaves are not useless though. If you boil them down, the liquid produced is a great, and natural, insecticide
- Rhubarb was prized for its medical uses in the past. It’s been used as a cure for constipation and to prevent gum disease
- Its use as a medicine made rhubarb an expensive plant in the 17th Century. At the time it cost more money than morphine, the strongest painkiller known
- As well as being used as a medicine, rhubarb is also the source of several dyes. The roots can make a brown hair dye, the stalks a red dye and the leaves a yellow one
- Rhubarb is healthy! –The plant is high in fibre and contains vitamin A, C and K, potassium, manganese and more calcium than a glass of milk
- Rhubarb fibres are so strong that they can be used to manufacture paper
- Rhubarb has a bitter taste. If you want it to be a little sweeter then go for the redder stalks rather than the green ones – they’re riper
- Rhubarb is a very hardy plant which can survive in most conditions. If you choose to grow it in your garden it won’t take much looking after at all
- Garden varieties are usually smaller but wild rhubarb can grow up to 3m tall
- To give the impression of a background conversation or hubbub, actors will repeat the word ‘rhubarb’ to generate noise. Because of this, the word ‘rhubarb’ has come to mean any talk or discussion
Do you like rhubarb? Let us here at Education Quizzes know your favourite recipe by filling in the comments box below – we’d love to hear from you!