I am sure that most of you will have a clump of it in your garden or on your allotment, although it can grow quite big it is often overlooked and not really eaten – it’s Rhubarb.
If you do have a root or crown you will notice that it is coming to life, its large smooth coated ‘buds’ are splitting to reveal new leaves on short stems, to get long, tender, delicious pale pink stems you need to block out all light and ‘force’ them by covering the crown with a large container/bucket, old chimney pot, dustbin or a traditional terracotta Rhubarb forcer, my dad even uses an old dolly tub, place bricks on top to weigh them down, you can start forcing Rhubarb in January for an earlier crop. Harvest the forced stems when they are approx. 20-30cm long, cut off the poisonous yellow leaves, these can be put in your Compost Bin, to pick Rhubarb hold the stalk at the base, pull and twist away from the crown so that it tears off.
Rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable although we often regard it as a fruit, it is available to pick fresh when other fruits are in short supply and often expensive, even if you have to buy some it is inexpensive when in season.
This picture shows forced taller, yellow leaved Rhubarb stems and smaller green leaved Rhubarb stems which haven’t been forced
Rhubarb is an easy plant to grow and will thrive on neglect, it prefers a moist fertile soil in a sunny position, plant Crowns in Spring or Autumn, although it can grow quite big it can be grown in a large Dirt Pot or Growing Bag (minimum size 40 litres), fill with a good quality Compost and mix into it well-rotted farmyard manure. Plant the crown about 3cm below the surface and water in well. Place the bags in a sunny spot watering the Rhubarb regularly especially during the Summer and during dry periods, allow new plants to become established for the first year before harvesting any stems, the following Spring only harvest a few stems at a time, remove any flower heads that appear these can be put in the Compost Bin. Rhubarb should only be forced every two years so if you prefer forced Rhubarb have two or more plants so that you can alternate them, don’t harvest stalks later than July. During Summer feed with a liquid or general-purpose fertilizer then in Autumn put your Rhubarb to bed; remove any old leaves and mulch around (not on) the crown with well-rotted farmyard manure.
Rhubarb makes a delicious dessert why not have a go at our
Easy Rhubarb Fool
- 350g Rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced
- Finely grated zest and juice of half an orange
- 55g Caster Sugar
- 150ml Double Cream
- 150ml Greek Yoghurt
- Shortbread or Oat Biscuits
What you need to do
- Place the Rhubarb, Zest, Juice and Sugar in a pan and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Rhubarb softens and starts to break up, remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Softly whip the Cream and Yoghurt together, fold in half of the cooled Rhubarb mixture.
- Spoon the stewed Rhubarb/Orange mixture and the creamy Rhubarb mixture in alternate layers into glasses or small dishes and serve with the biscuits.
- For a grown up version add a splash of Cointreau Orange Liqueur to the Rhubarb/Orange mixture.
- Serves 4
Why not have a go at our other Rhubarb Recipes?