Rhubarb season has started, and not a moment too soon.

My husband is the Rhubarb Grower.   We were lucky enough to inherit a good-sized crown and he has successfully divided it so that it is now a square metre bed of many crowns.   The smallest are allowed to strengthen for a year or two before we start to eat from them. 

He has been keen to try forcing the strongest crown and so last year I went looking for a rhubarb forcing pot as a birthday present.  I wanted a tall one, not too wide at the base.  I scoured the salvage shops, googled potters and looked in every local nursery.  No luck.  He eventually found his own in our regular farm shop and snaffled it.  The shop hasn’t had any since, so if you are looking for one, get the first one you find!  

Gardening books advised applying the forcer in late winter, so it went on in mid February.  They say you can hear forced rhubarb growing on warm days.  I can’t verify that, but the pot has definitely worked.  Within two weeks the forced stalks were twice the height of their ‘outside’ brethren.  We harvested the first stalks at the beginning of March when the leaves reached the top of the pot.  They were just as expected – long, straight, pink on the outside and pale yellow inside.     Perhaps also crisper and more subtle in flavour.  I don’t think we have hastened production much more than three weeks, though, so perhaps we will try putting the forcer on sooner next year. 

I am the Rhubarb Harvester.  I have a friend to thank for teaching me how to pull rhubarb properly, gripping it low to ensure the whole stalk comes up without leaving any to rot around the base.  I trim it straight into the compost before taking it to the kitchen.  We have no idea of the variety.  The mature unforced stalks aren’t as red as varieties I was used to, but that doesn’t seem to inhibit flavour.

At the height of the season we will be freezing as well as eating;  a winter’s dinner is brightened immeasurably with hot rhubarb and raspberry compote. 

In other garden news, the sprouting broccoli has just started, and I have had to improve my netting structures to ward off the wood pigeons!   The Brussels sprouts and Cavolo Nero are almost at an end (no thanks to the wood pigeons there either) and I think it is time to sow some more perpetual spinach before we run out. 

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

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