Real Men Sow

Let’s Hear It For Rhubarb!

author with rhubarbLast week, American website Gardeners Supply Limited shared my post on low maintenance crops with its Facebook followers. ‘Let’s hear it for rhubarb’, they said.

And you know what, I couldn’t agree more. Let’s absolutely definitely hear it for rhubarb, one of my favourite crops to grow. Rhubarb is a real Desert Island veg, I could not have a patch without as much rhubarb as I’ve space for.

Childhood Rhubarb Memories
I’ve grown up with rhubarb. Mum has a big patch at home, which she has been tending to for over 30 years. She’d freeze little chunks of the stems too, so there weren’t many weeks when I didn’t get fed stewed rhubarb, but I never complained. Rather than tire of the taste, I fell more and more in love with the veg-cum-fruit.

Rhubarb will always be close to my heart. Helping harvest from mum’s rhubarb patch is one of my earliest gardening memories, and I even recall playing hide and seek in amongst the spring time crop when people knocked on the door.

The red ants nest put a stop to this, but please, play along with my romantic childhood love affair with a rhubarb patch. :)

As I’ve grown older, rhubarb has begun to represent hope. When we’re slogging our way through February, the presence of rhubarb crowns, gently pushing up through the soil comes just when you really need a little dose of hope. By March, you’re not far from the first crops of the season, and the early rhubarb harvests are exhilarating moments, as well as a symbol of spring commencing.

Sugary Scent
I’m not sure there is a better smell on the plot than that of a freshly snapped rhubarb stem, either. I love breaking a stem in half and sucking up the syrupy scent almost as much as I do eating it. Maybe that’s the real reason I used to hide in the rhubarb patch back at mum and dad’s.

Whimsical mutterings aside, there are other just as significant practical reasons to love rhubarb.

As a perennial, rhubarb will keep returning year after year with minimum fuss. Rhubarb is reliable in poor soil, and its only want is a heavy Autumn manuring.

Multiplying your crop couldn’t be easier too. Divide old crowns by slicing up the massive roots. Don’t be scared to whip right through with a spade. I’ve found that so long as a bud remains on the crown, the rhubarb will be back.

Of course, most gratifying of all, rhubarb is simply delicious. I’ve become more adventurous as I’ve grown up, and while I still enjoy a nice dollop of stewed rhubarb, I have enjoyed trying as many other scrumptious recipes as I can find.

Rhubarb is so much fun to cook with, and there are almost limitless options for the sweet toothed amongst us. It makes stunning jam and divine crumble, as well as beautiful cakes. Perhaps best of all, is rhubarb crumble ice cream. Delia Smith has a super cheaty recipe which is well worth a try, although I like to fuse the crumble and rhubarb part with traditional ice cream.

As I look down the end of the garden towards my rhubarb corner, I’m filled with true excitement about the next few weeks. I predict I’ll be harvesting my first sticks towards the end of this month, which will also be the first crop to come from my Patch from Scratch.

I couldn’t think of a better fruit or veg to mark this milestone.


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  1. AdamMarch 4, 2013 at 10:23 pmReply

    You know, I haven’t got any rhubarb growing, nor did I have any plan too. However, you have enthused me to give it a go! Hopefully I will be able to fit a few plants in.

    As a child I never liked the taste of rhubarb. My mum loved it and had it a lot with yogurt and sugar. Just never appealed to me though. But as I grow older (as with a lot of things) my tastes are changing and find myself liking things I would never had imagined I would. Rhubarb is on of those things.

  2. Jono

    JonoMarch 4, 2013 at 10:34 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey Adam.

    I think that comes from GYOing too. There are lots of things I didn’t like before I got my plot, like sprouts and cabbage, that I now love. Similarly I grow and eat things I’d never have thought to have bought in shops, like kale and gooseberries.

    Its interesting how having a plot changes how you eat. Your own veg makes you more resourceful too I think and you try lots of different recipes to use up gluts.

  3. KevinMarch 6, 2013 at 8:22 pmReply

    Couldn’t agree more! I didn’t like rhubarb as a kid but it’s definitely my favorite crop right now. I tried forcing some this year and I’ve already had a first harvest. Looking forward to my second this week :)

  4. Jono

    JonoMarch 6, 2013 at 9:53 pmReplyAuthor

    As we say in these parts Kevin: I’m well jel. :)

    Any idea what variety your rhubarb is?

  5. elaineMarch 7, 2013 at 10:16 pmReply

    My rhubarb seems to be very slow coming through this year – but once is does it goes bananas – far too much for us to eat – so I distribute it around the village where we live and my neighbours are very grateful, so it doesn’t get wasted. It brings back memories of my grandma’s garden and her wonderful date and rhubarb pies!

  6. Jono

    JonoMarch 7, 2013 at 10:22 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Elaine,

    Mine is odd – some is slow, and some is flying up. Because its all come from divisions of other people’s crowns, I don’t know what varieties I’ve got growing, so reckon there are three of four different ones.

    Quite intriguing in one way, and frustrating in another!

    Date and rhubarb pie sounds amazing – be keen for that recipe!

  7. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » How Growing My Own Changed My Eating HabitsMarch 8, 2013 at 11:18 amReply

    [...] Let’s Hear It For Rhubarb! [...]

  8. LeVerneMarch 8, 2013 at 7:15 pmReply

    Too bad we can’t even find rhubarb in the frozen section in the Louisiana… I know we’re too far South I guess..
    But seems why back when I was a child. I see rhubarb at the A. & P store where my Mom shopped…My husband tried a rhubarb cobbler when in Branson and LOVE IT… Our granddaughter got introduce to it while living in Wisconsin..

  9. KevinMarch 10, 2013 at 12:04 amReply

    No idea what variety we have. It’s delicious whatever it is – I’ve just finished a helping of my second crumble this year :)

  10. TimMarch 17, 2013 at 8:09 pmReply

    Rhubarb is easily the most productive and moneysaving thing we grow! We use tons of it in jam, crumbles, chutneys etc!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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