Picking Rhubarb

Picking Rhubarb

Picking Rhubarb is great because it’s probably one of the first signs of the year that all of your hard work has paid off.

As I’ve said before, throughout the year rhubarb is one of those really low maintenance plants that offers a great return. It’s a great filler in cakes, crumbles and tarts.

I was lucky enough to learn from a young age that there’s a knack to picking Rhubarb so that you don’t end up damaging the plant when pulling out nice clean stems. .

With my particular rhubarb, which is called champagne, as a general rule of thumb, late March to late May is a good time to pick it. The crop is at its best and it’s not too bitter. I remember picking Rhubarb in the summer years ago and it was a huge disappointment – it was sour and tasteless.

How to pick rhubarb

Rhubarb stems grow in different directions, so it’s best to pull the rhuarb stem in the direction it’s growing in. If you don’t then you run the risk of snapping the stem which is not only messy, but what’s left in the crown can rot and damage the plant later on.

Now, it’s inevitable that the odd stalk will snap – it always happens with me at some point, so don’t worry too much, I guess the moral of the story is that you don’t want it happening too often.

When picking your stalk, get in as close to the center as possible, grabbing a stem as low you can – and then pull. They’ll be a natural give when you pull and a hollow crunching sound as you pull – but not a snap.

When you pull out a stem of rhubarb you should have a nice, clean but almost gooey end that’s a U shape. Lovely stuff!

Then once it’s picked you need to top and tail the stem. I like to cut the leaf about an inch or two from the base of the leaf and a couple of inches from base of the stalk so that I get as much as I can from the stalk. As a rule of thumb you want try and cut the stem at the point at which it starts to turn red.

I don’t like to be too severe when picking rhubarb as each time you pick it you’re giving more space, light, water and air to the rest of the crop – so I try and aim to pick around 3 or 4 stalks from each plant.

The remaining pieces I lay on the compost heap. I’ve read that sometime this isn’t ideal as the leaves are quite acidic, but in truth I’ve never noticed too much of a problem with doing this.

And that’s how you pick rhubarb! It’s easy-peasy lemon squeasy ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve got a few rhubarb recipes you can use, but I’m always interested to here what you do with yours. Be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Splitting and planting rhubarb

Splitting and planting rhubarb

Splitting and planting rhubarb can be a very daunting task and is one that I have to do every 5 or 6 years or so.

Rhubarb is such a great plant to grow if you have an allotment and is one of the first things I would recommend planting if you’re starting to grow your own. Rhubarb is also a great food stuff and there’s a lot you can do with it, whether it’s a crumble or simply stewed with your morning porridge.

The rhubarb on my plot is fairly low maintenance. When I say low maintenance, what I really mean is that I hardly ever touch it. I weed it every so often and I pick what I want from it. That’s pretty much it. In return I get a plant thatย covers a lot of ground, (which assists with keeping weeds down), is a great producer and provides a very cost effective yield.

In my own opinion, the rhubarb you buy in the shops is not of a high quality, but then again I may have just had a bad experience.

So I’m in the process of implementing a new plan at my allotment which has involved removing a grass path that separates my rhubarb patch and another bigger patch and re-aligning the edges of the original space.

In digging out the edges of the new patch, I found that my original rhubarb plants had quadrupled in size, which meant that I had to split them as best as I can and replant them. Splitting rhubarb looks and feels like a harsh procedure and because of this, it’s not something that I do very often. When splitting rhubarb, I follow these very simple rules… and hope for the best.

Splitting rhubarb

  1. Find the center of the crown – The center is where you pull most of the stems from
  2. Show no fear…
  3. Dig around the crown, about a foot from the center, leavering it up as you go..
  4. At this point, get another spade or fork and dig both in at opposites of the crown..
  5. Remember to show no fear..
  6. leaver out the crownย  from each side, try not to worry if you start to hear any large snaps at this point, eventually the rhubarb will give
  7. ย Once out… you should be left with a crater and a plantable rhubarb crown.
  8. Depending on how you got on, the rhubarb may have broken up naturally like mine did. If it didn’t, then be brave and chop it in half with a spade. It sounds weird and harsh, but it’s the only way I know.

My rhubarb was so difficult to dig out that I ended up breaking my spade! Not ideal, but keep calm and carry on.

Splitting and planting rhubarb

Planting the rhubarb

When planting rhubarb, I guess the secret is not plant it too deep. So I dig a whole that’s probably less than half a spade’s depth deep and I pick a spot that’s about 3 to 4 foot away from everything and this is really for the sake of the span of the growth.

Once I dug the hole I added some compost from the compost bin, planted the crowns and then topped up the edges with more compost from the compost bin. If you have some well rotted manure, this will also be ideal too. Now that I’ve started to cut the grass, over the next few weeks, I’ll probably top the bed with fresh grass cuttings that will act as mulch during the dry spells.

Now – the thing to remember with planting rhubarb is that you can’t pick it for about a year and a half, otherwise you’re at risk of pulling out the plant.

There we have it! This is quite a daunting task… But take it one step at a time and show no fear! Good luck.

Splitting and planting rhubarb

Rhubarb Jam Roly Poly

Rhubarb Jam Roly Poly

Ingredients
150g Sifted Self Raising Flour
40g Caster Sugar
70g Vegetable Suet
1 beaten egg
2 Tablespoon semi-skimmed milk
Butter for greasing
Rhubarb Jam (as much as you like)

Method

1. First of all Pre-heat the oven to 200C, lay grease proof paper on a baking tray and grease the paper with butter.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour, suet, egg and milk until you form a ball of dough – use your hands to clump the ingredients together if you’re struggling to get the right consistency.

3. On a floured surface roll out the dough until it’s around 2-3cm thick, and 30cm x 20cm in diameter.

4. Spread the jam on to the dough, leaving a 2cm edge uncovered. Roll the dough and the jam together and place on the greased baking tray.

5. Fold over the left over grease proof paper over the un-baked roly-poly and cover the tray with foil – bake for around 35-40 meetings or until golden brown.

Rhubarb and orange crumble

Rhubarb and orange crumble

Ah… A Sunday favourite the classic Rhubarb crumble…

Ingredients
Zest and juice of one large orange
75g of caster sugar
500g chopped rhubarb
75g unsalted butter
100g sifted plain flour
75g demerara sugar

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190F, gas mark5.

2. Mix the rhubarb, sugar and the juice and zest of an orange in a deep ovenproof dish, let this mature in the dish and eventually you’ll encounter a lovely sweet aroma.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the sifted flour, demerara sugar and butter with your fingers until the mixture goes crumbly and ย resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Layer the crumble mix on top of the rhubarb mix and push down with a fork.

5. Bake the crumble for approx 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown.

6. Serve with ice cream and custard.

Making rhubarb jam

Making rhubarb jam

Ok, so I’m giving the jam making a go. I’ve tried making jam in the past and it was ended up being a huge mistake. I made apple and marrow jam which turned into concrete, I think there’s still some of it under the stairs, which has the potential to be discovered by some kind of future civilisation.

This time, I’m making rhubarb jam and it’s a simple recipe that will appeal to the rhubarb puritans out there – it’s just sugar and rhubarb.

Ingredients
1 kg of rhubarb chopped into 1cm pieces, this will make around three to four jars
800 – 900g of jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)

Method

1. Add together the sugar and the rhubarb and leave the mixture over night. When you open the lid in the morning, you’ll be greeted with a lovely, chunky, syrupy mixture.

2. Place a saucer in the fridge and let it cool. You’ll need this later to do the wrinkle test.

3. Gradually bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer until everything starts to break down, stirring regularly – this should take around 20 – 30 minutes or so.

4. Wash your jars and lids thoroughly in hot water and place in an oven on a low heat, this will sterilise the jars.

5. As you cook the jam, a white froth will appear, this is called the scum, take a spoon and gradually skim off the scum and disregard.

I’ve also heard that a knob of butter will also disolve the scum into the mixture.

5. When you think you’ve got the right consistancy, take a spoonful of jam and place it on the saucer that you placed into the fridge earlier on. Let the spoonful cool, and then push it with your finger, if you see wrinkles then your jam is at the right consistency. ย If you don’t get that result, then keep simmering and repeat the wrinkle test every five minutes.

6. Turn off the heat and spoon into the jars, you may need a funnel for this to make life easier. When the jar is full, finish off with a waxy disc, which you’ll be able to get in any supermarket and then seal with the accompanying plastic disc, finish off the jar by screwing on the lid and then let it cool.

I’ve read that adding ginger or vanilla is a good move with rhubarb jam – what’s your twist?