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In Your Garden: Spring has sprung!

The name rhubarb comes from the Greek, rha barbrom. This basically means “that which is foreign”- most likely referring to the fact that it was originally brought from China. The Chinese used it mainly for medicine. There are still some people who regard it as medicine and want no part of the stuff, Petunia being one of those people. Of course, that means Bunkey loves the stuff.

A full grown rhubarb plant is very pretty. The bright red stems holding up huge dark green leaves make quite a statement in the garden. Rhubarb is a cousin to sorrel. It is so tart it is nearly unpalatable raw. Not only that, the leaves are filled with oxalic acid that in large amounts can kill you. Don’t even feed them to your animals. People eat the stalks, as we do celery, but it used more as a fruit. Odder and odder.

The stalks are quite stringy. The strings are where most of the flavor is making it a chore to get the darn stuff ready to cook. It takes about a cup and a half of sugar to 1 cup of rhubarb to make it edible. If you are a fan of rhubarb sauce, here is Petunia’s recipe. Wash the stalks then chop them into small chunks in the food processor. Put the fruit into a very large bowl, twice the size you think you need, and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. Check to see if it is the texture you like. If not, continue to zap it at one minute intervals until it is done to your taste. Then, add sugar to taste, stirring until it is all dissolved. Done! If you add the sugar before you cook it, it will all fall to the bottom of the bowl and turn into a rock hard clump. You can add water to this if you like, but it is really not needed as the rhubarb has lots of fluid in the stalks, plus the water left on the stalks from their rinse. The result will be a nice, thick sauce.

Now to another spring color explosion, the lowly dandelion. The lawn fanatic will be out spraying and digging at the first sign of yellow. He will then wonder why he has so few tomatoes and apples compared to Bunkey whose grass is full of dandelions and white clover. Bunkey knows that these blooms are the first food the emerging bees and other pollinators depend on for their first meal. Also, he is a bit lazy; he isn’t in any hurry to start mowing grass.

We have been getting quite a few calls at the Extension office about moss in the lawn and how to get rid of it. Why would you want to? It is green all summer, you don’t have to mow it and walking on it in bare feet feels like heaven on hot days. If you just can’t stand moss, you must give the area more sun and better soil. Limb up the trees or remove a few of them, then till up the area and add good soil to it. Seed with grass meant for a shady area and hope for the best. You may have less moss but you will have a hotter yard because now you have more sun. Leave the moss alone and just learn to love it. Ma nature put it there for a reason, and we know we don’t want to mess with her.

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