Several members of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market were visiting in the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot as we sometimes do on Saturday mornings when business is less than all consuming. We were nonplussed by a very pleasant woman requesting rhubarb. While each of us confirmed, “I have rhubarb at home,” none of us had thought to bring any to the Market. It seems that rhubarb, like snow tires and black flies, is just a way of life for folks from The County, such that anyone who uses rhubarb already has some and anyone who doesn’t have it, does not want it. So the market for it is (we thought) nonexistent.
On review, however, it seems that rhubarb has got to be one of the greatest botanical gifts known to man, and not just because it is ubiquitous.
Rhubarb is very forgiving. You can find “feral rhubarb” deep in the pucker-brush on the site of some long-forgotten homestead overgrown with trees.
The house may be flattened, the roof timbers rotted and the stone foundation crumbling to nothing, and still the once-prized rhubarb patch of the former occupants just keeps chugging along. The root grows thicker, the patch spreads, and the stalks grow longer and stronger year after year sans fertilizer, weeding, staking, or even regular harvest. The plant is ready, willing, and able to supply the long-gone family, should they decide to return.
That long-ago family may have taken a root with them to establish in a new farmstead or passed it along to young people to establish in homes of their own. Talk about a wedding present that is both practical and enjoyable!
Even gardeners struggling with a terminal case of “black thumb” can grow rhubarb. A small piece of root popped into almost any type of soil in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden, snuggled up to the foundation with the hostas, or out behind the barn will reward you with an annual crop over and over with no demands and no fuss.
But for those folks whose relatives gave them a toaster oven instead or for our welcome summer people who just don’t think about even a self-sustaining garden near their summer homes, Farmers Market members really need to get their act together, especially now that the strawberries are ripe (the tell-tale sky blue bus from Goughan’s Berry Farm arrived at the Market on June 26 this year — early spring, funny weather). Come back, nice lady … we will get you some!
Editor’s note: This weekly column is written by members of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market. For more information or to join, contact their secretary/treasurer Steve Miller of Westmanland at 896-5860 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.