The point of this blog post is merely to geek out about the return of rhubarb here in the Midwest. Ideally, I would be able to tie this excitement to soil health. And I can do this! As a perennial plant, rhubarb is a very important soil stabilizer. It prevents eager spring gardeners from tilling the earth around its rhizomes and provides carbon (aka food!) to soil microorganisms very early in the year.
Along with the quick growing buckwheat, rhubarb is a member of the plant family Polygonaceae. Unfortunately, these plants do not associate with mycorrhizal fungi so I can’t extol their carbon storing benefits. However, many studies show that these non-mycorrhizal plants do a lot to stimulate diverse bacteria in the soil, which is important for the underground ecosystem as a whole.
I love rhubarb. I love it in pies and other baked goods, but mostly I love this moment of its leafy arrival. After a long winter, the return of old friends is always spirit lifting. It reminds us to rejoice in the moment, in life. We know another winter will come. The perennial death. But in this moment, life is new. Cells are waking up, chloroplasts are stretching after their long sleep, and sunlight is once again being transformed into sweet liquid – flowing up from the roots and back down into the soil.
The return of the rhubarb is the essence of Spring, marking a new year of opportunity. Happy Spring and happy Earth Day, friends.