• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing rhubarb in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


By Lori Adams


Rhubarb grows so well here that I’m surprised it’s not indigenous. I have always been amazed at how many customers come out to the Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden just to pick it because I figured everyone had a clump growing behind their house.

Rhubarb is a vegetable but it is used most often like a fruit in pies and desserts. It grows out of a tuberous root system. The stalks are very tart, tasting a lot like lemon, and the leaves are poisonous but can be composted.

The best way to started growing it is to get a clump of roots from another Sitka gardener any time after May 15 but before Sept. 15. Penny Brown out at Garden Ventures has sold rhubarb seeds in the past and has had good reports from customers who have planted them, but I have no experience with rhubarb seeds.

The best growing conditions for a rhubarb patch in Sitka are partial shade, acidic soil, plenty of moisture, and a thick layer of mulch and nitrogen-rich food spring and fall. If at any point a flower stalk comes up out of the center of the plant it should be removed to ensure that the plant uses all of its energy to grow edible stalks. The flower is totally useless unless you are planning to save seeds. Just use a knife and cut it off close to the base of the plant.

It would be best not to harvest any stalks from your patch the first year and then in the following years harvest as much as you like as long as you don’t take more than two-thirds of the stalks from each clump each time you pick. It’s good to leave at least one or two stalks on the plant at the end of the season to die naturally to ensure that the plant is photosynthesizing up until the very end.

Rhubarb is “ripe” at any size. It does not change in flavor as it matures, but large, old stalks can get “pithy” or tough if they aren’t utilized and should be removed and thrown away. If most of your stalks are pithy you are not watering your patch enough. DO NOT cut your stalks from the plant when harvesting. It’s best to pull them loose by twisting them while pulling down and out with one hand and supporting the rest of the plant with the other. New plants could pull completely out of the ground and clumps of stalks can come out all together if you are not careful.

The entire stalk can be chopped up for use — even the very bottom tip that is white is good. Rhubarb holds up really well in the freezer. Just measure out  enough for a pie and put it in a labeled Zip-Lock bag and throw it in the freezer. No blanching is necessary. When it’s thawed out it will be kind of freezer burnt and soggy looking, but it cooks up just beautifully.

Rhubarb grows well in a pot but after a few years the root system will grow too large for the pot and the plant will become less and less productive. It’s also more susceptible during freezing weather so it’s best to grow it right in the ground.

About every five years or so it is beneficial to divide the plant. Shove a space right down through the middle of the clump and cut it into four pieces. The tubers can be very large and go very deep but you can be quite aggressive while dividing. Rhubarb is very hardy and even a portion of a tuber can survive just fine.

Replant some of the clumps for yourself but be sure to share the others with your neighbors  It’s good to spread the love!

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241


• Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 18

Aug. 5-11 is National Farmers Market Week this year, as noted by the Farmers Market Coalition. The Sitka Farmers Market didn’t quite line up its dates with National Farmers Market Week this year, but if you didn’t attend our market on Saturday, Aug. 4 you still can celebrate the week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

Farmers markets are a great way to connect with the community, while also purchasing local produce, wild fish, locally baked bread and arts and crafts. Besides providing access to fresh local produce, farmers markets create strong economic engines in communities, promote local health and bring a diverse group of people together. They also help consumers meet and get to know the people who produce their food.

“The Sitka Farmers Market serves as a family friendly place for people to meet and to visit with other members of the community,” Sitka Local Foods Network Vice-President Linda Wilson said. “Some people spend an hour or two just going around mingling with folks and chatting, catching up on the local news, telling jokes, and sharing ideas and information. There is a lot of good energy around during the market.”

Farmers markets have been growing nationally, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,864 in 2012, a jump of more than 270 percent. While Alaska doesn’t have as many farmers markets as other states, it did have the highest percentage of new markets in the country last year, up 35 markets in 2011 or 46 percent. The national rate of new market growth was 17 percent in 2011 and 9.6 percent in 2012.

Aug. 18 will be the fourth of six full Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, with the schedule running on alternate Saturdays (July 7, 21, Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and 15). The markets feature local seafood (fresh, frozen, and cooked, ready to eat), locally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, baked bread, locally picked berries, jams and jellies, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, locally brewed and roasted coffee, music, local arts and crafts, and a variety of other items gathered or made in Sitka. We emphasize local products and lots of fun. We are the first farmers market in Southeast Alaska to accept WIC coupons. You also can vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest by following the links at https://sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/2012/06/22/%E2%80%A2-dont-forget-to-vote-for-the-sitka-farmers-market-in-this-years-americas-favorite-farmers-markets-contest/.

For more information about the market or hosting a booth, contact Sitka Farmers Market Manager Johanna Willingham at 738-8836 or johanna.willingham@gmail.com. By the way, we always need volunteers to help set up and take down the market before and after the event. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Also, there will be a couple of work parties from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8, and  from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, which is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (the dark brown brick-and-wood church on Lincoln Street above Crescent Harbor). Fresh veggies will be available for a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network or a WIC Farmers Market Coupon. For more info on garden work parties, contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009 or 623-7003.

• Community Wellness Award nominations needed for Sitka Health Summit

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt, right, accepts the 2011 Nutrition community wellness champion award from Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee Member Alyssa Sexton.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt, right, accepts the 2011 Nutrition community wellness champion award from Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee Member Alyssa Sexton.

The 2012 Sitka Health Summit is coming up, and nominations for the community wellness awards are being accepted now. These awards highlight people and groups in Sitka who are making our community a healthier place to live.

The Sitka Local Foods Network has its roots in the Sitka Health Summit. In 2008, two of the community health priorities dealt with local food security issues — starting a public market for local food and artisans, and building more community gardens and a community greenhouse. In 2010, two more community priorities dealt with local food — planting 200 fruit trees in Sitka and getting more local, wild fish into the menus at local schools.

The community health priorities from the 2011 Sitka Health Summit were to start a community composting project (Sick-A-Waste), develop plans for a new Sitka Community Playground that will be American Disabled Act-accessible, and get more Sitka people active through renewing our status as a Bicycle Friendly Community and launching a Parks Prescription program where local medical providers prescribe time outdoors in our parks.

Anyway, here is the announcement about the community wellness award nominations.

SITKA, Aug. 1, 2012 — Do you have a friend or neighbor you think is a fine example of a healthy role model or wellness champion? The steering committee for the sixth annual Sitka Health Summit, “Working Together for a Healthier Sitka,” is accepting nominations for awards that will be presented during this year’s summit, which takes place Oct. 3-6 at various locations around Sitka.

These awards are for Sitka residents who have made outstanding contributions or served as role models in one of six categories — physical activity, nutrition, safety/injury prevention, tobacco prevention/control, holistic health and general wellness. We will honor adults, youth, elders, policy makers, health care providers and Sitkans of all walks of life who make our community a healthier place to live. The awards will be presented during the Sitka Health Summit Awards celebration, which takes place on Wednesday night, Oct. 3, at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi.

Each nomination should include a brief description of why this individual or group deserves an award, and it should provide us with contact information for both the nominator and the nominee. The awards are our way to recognize and thank Sitka’s unsung heroes of community wellness for their contributions to Sitka’s health.

Nominations should be received by Penny Lehmann no later than Tuesday, Aug. 28. Please e-mail nominations to sitkahealthsummit@yahoo.com, telephone them into Penny at 747-3255, or mail them to Penny Lehmann, Sitka Public Health Center, 210 Moller Dr., Sitka, AK 99835.

The Sitka Health Summit started in 2007 after officials from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Community Hospital met and decided they wanted to build a bridge of cooperation between their two organizations. SEARHC and Sitka Community Hospital continue to be major sponsors in this community event that involves other health care organizations, schools, businesses, non-profits and other groups concerned about the health and wellness of Sitka. The vision of the Sitka Health Summit is “to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life.” You can learn more about the Sitka Health Summit and check out past Community Wellness Award winners by going to http://www.sitkahealthsummit.com/.

• SitNiks to provide musical entertainment during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season, Aug. 4

The SitNiks will provide musical entertainment during the third Sitka Farmers Market of the season, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.).

The SitNiks, who will play from 10 a.m. to noon, perform music from Russian and other Eastern European countries. Members of the group include, from left, Ritch Phillips on bass, John Fulton on concertina, Pattie Skannes on balalaika, Bree Hack on fiddle, Jeanne Stolberg on balalaika, Kris Fulton on fiddle and Mike Litman on accordion (not pictured is J Bradley on various stringed instruments).

The Sitka Farmers Market is happy to provide a showcase for local musicians. Musical acts for future Sitka Farmers Markets this year will be announced later. For more information about providing musical entertainment, contact market coordinator Johanna Willingham at 738-8336.

The Sitka Local Foods Network also is seeking volunteers to help set up tables and tents before the market starts, and to tear down and pack up the market after it ends. We need volunteers for all of the remaining markets (Aug. 4, 18, Sept. 1 and 15). If you have a strong back and helping hands, please contact Johanna at the number above.

In addition, the Sitka Local Foods Network needs people to help harvest veggies from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market. Work/harvest parties will take place from 4-5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, and from 8-9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street). We expect to have lots of veggies to harvest for Saturday’s market, so we hope to have several people help with the picking.

• A short video to get you excited about the 2012 Sitka Seafood Festival

Elizabeth Cockrell of the Sitka Conservation Society provides this short promotional video for the 2012 Sitka Seafood Festival, which takes places Aug. 9-12 at various locations around downtown Sitka. The video was shown during a recent community salmon bake hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society. Tickets for the Friday, Aug. 10, Sitka Seafood Festival banquet at Harrigan Centennial Hall are for sale for $65 each at Old Harbor Books, and the guest chefs are sure to have exciting seafood dishes for you to try. Also, this year’s Sitka Seafood Festival will give Sitka residents a chance to watch and participate in a Scottish Highland Games. A complete schedule of events is posted on the Sitka Seafood Festival website.