I've got a big, lovely rhubarb plant in my yard which I'd hoped to be able to harvest a few different times over the course of a summer. How should I harvest my rhubarb to encourage it to regrow quickly? Should I cut it off near the base, pull it up from the root, or something else? Should I harvest it all at once, or should I leave some of the stalks in place?
I usually just "snap" off the stalks - a sharp yank on a shaft straight down is usually enough to free it.
I typically only harvest the stalks that are above a certain size. Though some folks just take all at once. Rhubarb is pretty hardy - it will likely suffer through much punishment.
I watched a video on this precise question because my neighbour invited me to take rhubarb from her plant, and I wanted to make sure I did it in a way that wouldn't affect her plant.
The video was made by Tom Cole at Capel Manor College in London. It has been deleted, but these are the points I took from it:
Don't cut the stalk with a knife. Pull it right out with a sharp tug. This apparently promotes new growth and "invigorates the roots" so it helps the plant. (Also the bit right at the bottom is the most delicious part to eat!)
Don't take more than 3 or 4 stems per season per plant. I actually took up to 5, because there were so many, but I think the idea is to make sure to leave the plant with at least 3-4 stalks leftover for the new season.
The new growth is often sweeter, with the older larger stems being tougher, less flavour and more fibrous. The root is very deep. It's recommended that it's dug up every couple of years and moved. I've not moved mine for 10yrs and it was already ancient when I moved in.