Stock photo by Ayla87
As a child I remember being given a stick of raw rhubarb and a saucer of sugar. The trick was to dip the rhubarb in the sugar and munch. The sharp acidic taste of the rhubarb remains with me still. I can still see me and Seraphina sitting on the grass in the sunshine wearing smocked summer frocks and Startrite sandals (big enough so you couldn’t feel your toes in the shop) . The awsome privilege of being allowed to take china saucers outside. The love hate marriage of the rhubarb and white sugar crystals that gradually drew the rhubarb juice and became little hills of pink. Licking these hills off my fingers was the best bit. Neither too sharp or to tart. Just right.
The challenge was to chew the rhubarb stalk in such a way as to release as much of the juice as possible into the sugar without being overpowered by the sharpness.
When I arrived at the cottage I planted some Champagne rhubarb. It didn’t care for its new home and died the next winter. A few years later I met Alf – a retired carpenter and superb gardener. He suggested bartering some rhubarb crowns and a gooseberry bush for a small box of our homemade chutney. What a bargain. Both the rhubarb and the gooseberry bush have blossomed (and he loved the chutney!). I reckon that the rhubarb plants must be the popular and prolific Victoria variety.
They settled in well and by the second year they were good strong plants producing lots of stalks from late April to well into November and the first frosts. My initial idea was to grow rhubarb for home made wine. Given long enough to mature, this is a delicious wine. We have several demijohns maturing in the barn.
Rhubarb infused vodka is another winner. Recipe to follow in a few days time.
The big problem with eating rhubarb is Danny. Like me he grew up in a rhubarb loving family. We both shared the delight of eating cold chilled stewed rhubarb straight from the fridge. However with the passing of the decades his acid tummy makes rhubarb a no-no these days. Some times I’ll cook a little for myself but with three enormous crowns I’ve decided to play about with rhubarb a bit this year.
I’m planning to develop new set of preserves recipes including rhubarb jellies, rhubarb jams even a rhubarb vinegar. I think a little rhubarb and a lot of elderflowers/strawberries/ginger might be a great combination too.
Up until now I haven’t given our rhubarb any special attention as it seems to grow so well on its own. However, it’s all change this year. I’ve discovered that it prefers a slightly acid soil so I have dug loads of organic matter and well rotted manure around the crowns. I’ve also found that ours grows, by chance, in the perfect place. Rhubarb doesn’t enjoy sun all day and a bit of shade is welcome. Ours is planted about eight feet away from the back of a south west facing eight foot yew hedge. So it gets a blast of sun early in the morning and another surge mid afternoon when the sun is at its highest.
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