On Monday, May 17th, eight volunteers from the Monastery showed up at 6:45 p.m. to take part in the first harvest of the season at the Monastery Rhubarb Patch. This is a social event as well as a job that has delightful gustatory consequences. There is a system in harvesting rhubarb. Mature plants can be harvested of up to half of their leaves. The volunteers look for petioles, or leaf stems, about a foot long, 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide, that are firm and have good color.
The stems are “pulled,” gripped at the base of the plant and pulled with a twisting motion. Pulling is preferable to cutting because it removes more of the petiole which will invigorate the roots.
Volunteers from back left: Sister Teri, Sister Gaudensia, Sister Mary Christa, and Sister Lisa
While some volunteers pull the rhubarb, others cut off the leaves (which are poisonous with oxalic acid) and the ends from the stems. A volunteer gets up every now and then and empties the boxes of leaves between the rows of plants. This provides mulch and eventually compost. Before the sun could change daylight into twilight, the station wagon was filled with twelve big boxes of trimmed rhubarb.
Sister Gaudensia with an armload of harvest standing behind Sister Pauline and Sister Armella
Recipes using rhubarb are countless: breads, jams, jellies, juices, custards, cakes, cookies, gallettes and crepes, ice cream, sauces, puddings, and more. It brings to mind Bubba Blue listing for Forrest Gump all the ways shrimp can be prepared. This first harvest goes to the Monastery kitchen where it will, without doubt, be turned into something scrumptious for all the Sisters.
Left to right: Sister Teri, Sister Lisa, Postulant Linda, Sister Pauline, Sister Armella, and Sister Dorene
Later in the season harvests will be dedicated to making treats to be donated to the annual Rhubarb Festival which benefits Duluth’s CHUM, Churches United in Ministry.