Like many children who grow up with a vegetable garden in their backyard, I ate rhubarb. I loved it in a fool, with cream, stewed and refrigerated till freezing cold, a glaze of ice atop it. I adored it as a rhubarby dollop amidst a sea of Bird’s Custard. I dipped it in sugar, and then puckered my mouth as the sugar dissolved to leave me with that striking rhubarb taste. I grow it in my plot. And for me it’s become one of the most satisfying of garden harvests. Its rewarding because it’s the first to pop up, and then keeps on going, essentially through the summer, always producing more and pushing the boundaries, till it’s overpowering the near-by strawberries. I never eat it in a stalk, now. But do stew it and eat it with yogurt, its mouth-puckering taste hidden by lavender or maple syrup, or a simple sprinkling of sugar. I also make rhubarb jam and chutney, and of course, crumbles, rich rhubarby corncakes, and Eve’s Puddings, a fruit and sponge concoction. Towards the end of the season I freeze the last few edible stalks in a bag, their high water content making it ideal for winter storage. PR.
Latin name: Rheum rhaponticum.
Growing conditions: full sun or partial shade. Plant it for the long term. Once rhubarb has has taken root doesn’t want to be disturbed. Plant in a spot that has water-retentive soil, and that has been well-weeded. Fill the spot with lots of organic matter. Plant autumn or early winter if you can. If not try for early spring. A general rule of thumb that it takes about 18 months before you can pick. i.e. ignore the first harvest, pick – sparingly, the second. Harvesting: Usually between May – August. Be sparing. Pick only what you need – and leave the rest. Make sure at least 5 stems remain. To pluck: pick low to the plant, and twist slightly as you pull. Generally speaking, a plant can yield about 5 – 6 ibs of rhubarb per season. Once the plant is 5 years old or so it can be divided, into 3 or 4 other plants. Last thing in this mini-rhubarbium, the leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic – it’s wise not to eat them
Rhubarb Eve’s Pudding.