What Plant Is Part Food and Part Poison?

Rhubarb is a vegetable that is often baked in a pie and used as a dessert.

The plant consists of large leaves, up to two feet across in some cases, on long, thick stalks. The stalks may be an inch in diameter and up to two feet long. But the stalk is really part of the leaf, called a leafstalk.

If you find rhubarb in the supermarket, you can be sure it’s only the stalk part of the leafstalk. For while the stalk is a delicious, juicy red vegetable, the leaves poisonous!

The leaves of the rhubarb plant rise early in the spring. Later, the plant produces a large flower and seeds. But the seeds can’t be used to grow new plants because they don’t always turn into the same kind of rhubarb plant that the seed came from.

Instead, farmers cut pieces of the root and the buds which the root produces, and plant them in a field about four feet apart. This assures that the new rhubarb plant will have all the traits of the plant from which it was cut. Each rhubarb plant lasts from 5 to 8 years.

The word rhubarb, when used to refer to an argument, came from the days of early radio broadcasts when performers would repeat the word over and over again when they wanted to sound like a crowd!