I miss rhubarb. Setting up a new veg patch as I am, I’m following common advice and not picking my first-year crowns until they are into their second Spring.
Rhubarb is one of my favourite harvests, and everywhere I turn, the lack of rhubarb is paining me. Little reminders that everyone else is revelling in their new stems.
Firstly, the couple who bought our house back in Essex posted photos on Facebook of the rhubarb they’d harvested from the garden. Then I discovered the Instagram account of the new plotholder at my old allotment, proudly showing photos of the masses of rhubarb growing.
My friend at my old work texts me asking if rhubarb should flower (answer by the way: it does – nip the buds off so the plant doesn’t go to seed), and then finally – as if to rub my nose in it – I had to buy some rhubarb this week to satisfy my tastebuds. Buy rhubarb! Oh, the indignation!
Here are the 5 things I miss about growing rhubarb:
The Sweet, Fresh Scent
I’m not sure there is a better smell on the plot than that of a newly snapped rhubarb stem. I love breaking a stem in half and sucking up the syrupy scent almost as much as I do eating it. As good as my shop-bought rhubarb was, there isn’t that same fresh fragrance when it’s not your own, just picked crop.
Of course, most homegrown fruit and veg are superior to those in the shops, but some take it to new levels, and rhubarb is a good example of this. That lovely scent passes quickly post-harvest, and if it’s something you’ve never experienced, you’re missing out!
Stocking Up the Freezer
We had a big rhubarb patch at our previous allotment. As a family, rhubarb has always been a favourite and given how well the stalks freeze, we planted extra crowns just for that purpose. Rhubarb is easy to freeze and requires no special prep such as blanching. Simply chop the stalks into 5cm lengths, and pop them in the freezer in a freezer bag or container.
The surplus off my old patch was perfect for stewing and mixing in with porridge. Drizzled with honey and topped with walnuts, this is one of my favourite breakfasts and the frozen stalks would last well into winter.
£3.37 for 8 stalks, or £1.75 a pound, rhubarb is expensive in the shops. Until I went shopping for some last week, I’d forgotten just how expensive. I guess I had started to take the bag fulls of rhubarb I brought home from the allotment for granted as rhubarb is so productive and so easy to grow.
Financially it makes such great sense to grow rhubarb – the bang for the buck is very big for space the crowns take up, and the effort required to keep the plant healthy and fertile so minimal that rhubarb would be one of the first crops on an allotment or veg patch I managed.
That Feeling of the First Spring Harvest
As I’ve grown older, rhubarb has begun to represent the good times to come. 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. Picking rhubarb reminds me that warmer times, full of bountiful harvests and long summer evenings aren’t too far away…
Filling the Hungry Gap
Right about now, good stuff on the plot is sparse. The hungry gap is well and truly here and if we’re lucky the plot might still be providing some winter greens, leeks, and subject to our organisation, maybe a few bags of salad leaves, purple sprouting broccoli, and spring greens, but generally fresh produce are pretty limited. And as for fruit, it will have been a long time since anything fresh made it’s way to the kitchen.
So when rhubarb comes along to help plug that hungry gap, you can’t help but be so very appreciative. I’m counting the days until next year… 🙂