Rhubarb: Growing, Harvesting, and Culinary Inspiration














It’s rhubarb season in Western Oregon, and the rhubarb patches at Gathering Together Farm are robust this year. The crew started harvesting stalks (technically petioles) almost a month ago, and the warm wet weather has been perfect for rhubarb regrowth. We will likely have rhubarb at our farmers’ markets and at the farm stand for another month or so until the weather starts to get truly hot and dry.

While rhubarb isn’t technically a fruit, it does make a nice fruit-like addition to an Oregon spring diet because it comes on earlier than true fruits like strawberries.

It seems that in the past few years, rhubarb has surged in popularity, but there is still quite a bit of misinformation circulating in the public lore about this ancient but still relatively unknown plant. Quite possibly the most common misconception about rhubarb has to do with the color. Rhubarb doesn’t “turn” red. It starts red and stays red unless it’s green (or greenish red) rhubarb in which case it starts green and stays green (or greenish red). Rhubarb is more like zucchini in that it can never be unripe; it just gets bigger until it gets overripe and starts to turn brown and woody.

At Gathering Together Farm, we grow mostly red rhubarb because that’s what people want even though there is essentially no difference between red and green varieties (except that sometimes the green stuff is sold at a lower price). Our original rhubarb patch was planted almost two decades ago, and rhubarb has become a mainstay for our farmers’ market booths in the spring.

Rhubarb is relatively easy to grow. It produces best when fertilized annually with composted manure and/or leaf mulch. We don’t usually water our patches because they produce most heavily during the rainy spring. The plants will continue to bear throughout the summer if they get enough water, but they will go dormant in really hot weather.

Rhubarb is generally grown from starts not seed, and we’ve heard from farming friends that good rhubarb starts are hard to find. Ideally, rhubarb should be dug up and divided every 3-5 years, so it doesn’t get overcrowded. Each time we’ve done this, we’ve planted the extra divisions in a new area, thus increasing our rhubarb acreage and yield. When we divide our own rhubarb starts this fall, we may have extras to sell, so if you’re interested in growing your own rhubarb, check back with us later.

For more info on growing rhubarb, read this article (though obviously herbicides are not part of our growing protocol) from the Rhubarb Compendium.

The crew picks the most developed stalks of rhubarb from a patch every two weeks or so at this time of year, rotating the harvest area from week to week, which allows patches to regenerate between pickings. Crew members (Carmelo above) harvest rhubarb by simply giving individual stalks a good yank, which will cleanly free them from the root masses.

A few crew members will do the pulling while others trim the stalks.













A crew member (Cirilo above) uses a large, sharp knife to cleave off the large leaf and the papery flap by the base of the stalk.

Rhubarb leaves are beautiful but mildly poisonous. The discarded leaves are left to mulch the rhubarb patch.














Harvesting and cleaning rhubarb is not difficult or unpleasant. In fact, the crew can fill many tubs in a half hour or so.

Tubs of rhubarb stalks are transported back to the packing shed to be rinsed, repacked, and distributed to our farmers’ markets, the farm stand, and restaurant orders.

Though it can be used in savory dishes, rhubarb stalks are generally cooked into desserts or breakfast foods with generous sweeteners to counteract its inherently astringent flavor. For more info on how to cook and store rhubarb, along with its health benefits, check out this article on Foodal.com.

Here are a few rhubarb-centric recipes from around the web that look particularly delicious:

Sugared Coconut Raspberries and Rhubarb Polenta Cake from Desserts for Breakfast

Rhubarb Tarts with Orange-Honey Fromage Blanc from Desserts for Breakfast

Rhubarb Crisp from Nectar

Rhubarb Mojito from Not Without Salt

Honey Rhubarb Compote from The Bounty Hunter

Lavendar Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb from Tartelette

Rhubarb Tartelettes from Tartelette

Poached Rhubarb with Yoghurt, Pistachios, and Honeycomb from La Buena Vida

Orange Scented Honey Rhubarb Swirl Cake from Good Things Grow

Rhubarb and Rosewater Syrup from 101 Cookbooks

If you don’t feel like cooking/baking on your own, GTF pastry chef Ana Patty has various rhubarb pastries and desserts (like the unbaked brown butter-rhubarb tarts above) on the menu in the farm stand on a regular basis.

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for May 8-11

vegetable soup

The menu this week showcases several new spring offerings like rhubarb, oregano, bok choy, and white turnips. While the dishes are made up of a full spectrum of colors, green is everywhere, as it should be this time of year.

Last week’s breakfast on Saturday was one of the busiest on record at the farm stand. Thank YOU for coming out and supporting us.

The farm stand is open 9-5 Tuesday through Saturday. In addition to meal service, we always have a full selection of organic produce, coffee, pastries, and other local goods for sale in the store.

duck pâte with rhubarb mostarda

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

to start:

duck pâte with rhubarb mostarda
duck liver crostini with sour cherry mostarda
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with grilled flat iron with white turnips and red wine vinaigrette
vegetable soup with artisan bread
white bean soup with artisan bread



pesto/roasted peppers/tomato/mozzarella
duck/goat cheese/tomato/mozzarella



agnolotti with porcini broth, leeks, and watercress
pork ragú with bok choy and tagliatelle
golden raisin and rosemary bread pudding
spring risotto
GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns
lamb sausage with braised cabbage

In early fall of last year, we dried boxes of italian sweet peppers…

…and now the kitchen staff will occasionally turn those dried peppers into house-made chili paste that ends up in or on a variety of different dishes.

the pizza station
Before: pesto/roasted pepper/tomato/mozzarella pizza
After: pesto/roasted pepper/tomato/mozzarella pizza














We’re happy to pour a selection of wines from local wine makers Spindrift, Lumos, Tyee, or Pheasant Court.

The chives are blooming, so chive blossoms garnish many plates.
spring risotto in the works
Spring risotto
pork ragú with bok choy and tagliatelle
lamb sausage with braised cabbage
plates headed out to hungry folks with GTF salad in front
GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns

Le Tour De Greenhouses

David and Carmelo pick arugula raab in a greenhouse full of overgrown salad greens.

It’s no secret that Gathering Together Farm has embraced the use of season-extending plastic greenhouses. This year we have 38 of them plus the heated propagation greenhouse for starting seedlings. Greenhouses offer extra heat during the cooler seasons and the opportunity to deliver a measured amount of water to plants (as opposed to whatever the sky lets loose). Unfortunately, they are expensive to buy, build, and maintain because of the infrastructure costs and the extra labor hours needed to set up irrigation and do the work that a tractor could do out in an open field. There is also the looming risk of losing greenhouses during winter snow storms or other extreme weather events. This winter we had two small greenhouses collapse under the weight of snow in January (read more here), but the middle-of-the-night snow-sloughing efforts of John, Sally, and several crew members saved the rest during the deep snows at the end of March.

The reality is that we have thousands of individual and restaurant customers that want to buy produce from us year round, and we have nearly a hundred employees that are eager to work as much as possible. Growing under cover allows us to produce larger quantities of higher-quality fruits and vegetables for more of the year than the outdoor Oregon climate would permit.

At this time, all our greenhouses are in use. Our mid-season staples like tomatoes and cucumbers are well established, and some early spring crops are finishing up and will soon be harvested, torn out, or tilled in to prepare for planting fall crops. Each photo (or set of two photos) below represents a single greenhouse, so you should get a good sense of how we’re employing these shelters. (There are two additional greenhouses planted with more tomatoes that were somehow overlooked during the photo shoot. Sorry.) In some of these photos, you will see weeds because unfortunately, this organic farm is not pristinely weed-free.

first of the season strawberries

white salad turnips going to flower






























  snap peas


white salad turnips


lettuces for salad mix (plus weeds)












  sage and tarragon

baby leeks that will soon be dug up and transplanted outdoors




scallions (left) and baby bunching onions


peppers (See more about planting peppers here.)















 tomatoes (See more about trellising tomatoes here.)

the propagation greenhouse with the tomato grafting chamber in the back on the left

red leaf head lettuce














 head lettuce



Sometimes when we want to add extra heat in a greenhouse, the crew will build a floating row cover tent over the crop.


The crew (Macario on the left and David on the right) lays down plastic mulch in a greenhouse that was  later planted with more tomatoes and eggplant.















 bok choy

radicchio for salad mix
















overwintering chard

flowering watercress

spinach (See more about seeding this spinach in here.)

flowering watercress

Ana Patty’s Chocolate Guinness Cake

This week, both Ricky (#2 in the kitchen) and JC (head chef) celebrated birthdays, so on Tuesday, Ana Patty (GTF pastry chef) brought in a chocolate Guinness cake of her own creation to celebrate and share with the kitchen crew. This cake is moist, dark, and richly flavorful. The added Guinness isn’t an afterthought or a subtle “secret” ingredient but more like the star of the show. The crumb tastes like beer but in a delicious, chocolately way, and the light touch of Bailey’s Irish Cream in the whipped cream topping adds a little boozy complexity.

Chocolate Guinness Cake 

makes two 8″ cakes

very loosely adapted from a chocolate buttermilk cake recipe in Caprial’s Desserts

for the cake:

3 1/8 (1 lb) all purpose flour
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 good eggs
3 good egg yolks
2 1/2 cups Guinness beer
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong coffee

for the topping:

 1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream or other flavored syrup
dark chocolate (grated) or extra cocoa powder

*This recipe can be done with or without an electric mixer.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix dry ingredients together, and make sure no lumps remain. Add the oil and buttermilk and mix until thoroughly combined. Gradually add in the eggs and egg yolks a little at a time and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the beer, vanilla extract, and coffee mix until smooth. The batter will be very runny (the consistency of chocolate syrup).

Grease two 8-inch pans and pour in the batter. Bake. Check the cakes after 20 minutes to make sure they’re not burning. Remove the cakes from the oven when an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 30 minutes total).

When the cakes are cool, whip the cream and then fold in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Spread a layer of whipped cream on top of each cake and then use a pastry brush to paint on the Bailey’s Irish Cream or flavored syrup. Sprinkle on grated dark chocolate or cocoa powder.

Ana Patty‘s cake was thoroughly enjoyed by the GTF staff. Though there were a few plates and forks involved, most folks unceremoniously picked up pieces of cake in their fingers and savored big bites of deliciousness.














Last but not least, we’d like to say a big Happy Birthday to both Ricky (May 2) and JC (May 3) and thanks to Ana Patty for sharing her cake and her recipe!

Views Around the Farm Stand + Lunch Menu for May 1-4

GTF salad with flat iron, white turnips, and red wine vinaigrette

Happy May Day! We’re welcoming in another beautiful month with new seasonal vegetables and delicious food. Fresh peas, carrots, and a few pints of strawberries have arrived in the farmstand, and we have fresh pasta on the menu every day.

Our wine dinner last week was a fabulous success, and we’re beginning to plan the next one that will happen at the end of June. We are continuing to serve dinners in the restaurant every Thursday and Friday night. Call 541-929-4270 for a reservation.

The Lunch Menu (subject to change based on availability)

to start: 

pâte with dried cranberry, baguette, cornichon, and mustard
duck liver crostini with sour cherry mostarda
crespelle with duch and rhubarb
mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
GTF salad with grilled flat iron, white turnips and red wine vinaigrette
mushroom soup with artisan bread
potato and leek soup with artisan bread



capers/GTF ham/tomato/mozzarella
bacon/caramelized shallot/tomato/mozzarella



tortelli with shallots, beef tongue, and turnip raab
orecchiette with blue cheese, leeks, tomato, and pea shoots
herb and olive bread pudding on beets and kale
creamy polenta, farm bounty and poached egg
GTF brodetto with rockfish and prawns
duck confit with polenta and balsamic
housemade baguette
potato and leek soup
caper/GTF ham/tomato/mozzarella pizza

leeks/peas/tomato/mozzarella pizza

nettle ravioli
tortelli with shallots, beef tongue, and turnip raab
parsley oil
duck confit with polenta and balsamic














JC and Ricky double team an order.

herb and olive bread pudding on beets and kale














Sunshine in the (wheelchair-accessible) garden room and lilacs in the kitchen. Ahhh…

housemade chorizo

real potatoes for our famous potato doughnuts
Ana Patty’s croissant dough in the works