WHAT A FUNNY NAME FOR A VEGETABLE!
My great aunt Mary had a garden. As kids, my younger sister and I played nearby, but tried to avoid trampling anything. Rhubarb, a very attractive plant with crimson stalks similar in shape to celery, grew there. If you've seen one, you know its green leaves are prehistorically large and broad, giving the plant an appearance similar to squash. Young stalks remind me of bright lights swiss chard, too.
I call it an old-fashioned vegetable. Why? Mostly older people seem to know of it. Grocery stores seldom carry it, and it's unheard of to many people I've met. But, serve it with strawberries in a pie, and they'll probably never forget it!!
Until it has become established with a good root system, harvesting should be spare. The first year nothing should be harvested. At all times, only the stalks can be eaten. The leaves contain a high amount of oxalic acid, which makes them toxic (slightly to extremely toxic, depending on the information source). Oxalic acid can contribute to the creation of kidney and/or bladder stones. So, just dispose of the leaves. Whether or not they are safe for the compost pile also depends on who one asks.
When something like this grows on your rhubarb:
it will probably become a seed-bearing stem. This should be removed so that the plant's energy can go into producing the stalks for harvest.
Another important thing I have learned. Fertilze, fertilize. It's a heavy feeder. My dad, who grew up in a semi-rural area outside of St. Louis with a neighbor grew the plant, told me, "If you want good rhubarb, put horse manure around the bottom of the plant." Thanks dad.
According to this web site, "rhubarb is as hardy as a weed." However, regular shallow cultivation to remove weeds is needed, as well as watching for Rhubarb curculio, an invasive beetle. The same web site has great detail about growing, harvesting, nutrition and use of rhubarb, as well as many other vegetables and some fruits. Check it out.