Does Rhubarb Actually Become Toxic After Memorial Day? [Answer]
Over the weekend I had a friend ask on Facebook what the rule was with eating rhubarb after Memorial Day.
This one really stumped me as I had never in my life heard a single thing about it being right or wrong. In my world rhubarb has always been put into desserts in the late spring/early summer months, and after that, we switch to zucchini based foods. I never thought it was because of a "rule".
A quick Google search brought me to GardenMyths.com where they debunked some popular myths around this popular Minnesota garden staple.
One of the myths they debunk: Rhubarb Stalks Become Toxic in Summer.
Turns out that that is just not true. Rhubarb stalks taste best when they are harvested and used in the spring and early summer, but they are safe to eat in the later summer months as well. the website gave a couple of reasons why people might not want to eat them in those months though:
- They tend to get woody in late summer and don’t taste as good.
- If you harvest too many stalks in spring, the plant needs some leaves to grow food for next years crop. Continual harvesting will eventually kill the plant.
This "toxic" fear might come from people saying you should not eat rhubarb leaves because of the high levels of oxalic acid. In order for a 143-pound human to die from eating rhubarb leaves, they would need to ingest 11 pounds of leaves. Also based on experience I'm not sure the leaves taste that good.
A couple of other things to keep in mind:
- Green stalks are totally OK to eat. Stalk color is affected by both environmental conditions and genetics.
- Red color doesn't mean sweetness. The Victoria variety, which is also the greenest variety, can produce some very sweet stems.
So basically, go ahead and enjoy your rhubarb as long as you like, as long as you are OK with the texture changing month to month.