Picking Champagne Rhubarb

Instagram and Twitter has been awash this bank holiday weekend with photos of people picking rhubarb and making all kinds of lovely sweet treats with it.  Picking rhubarb gives you a real sense that spring has settled in nicely and summer is truly on the way.  I tried earlier this to force my rhubarb in a strange looking frame, which got blown away by the wind the rain – so in the end, I just left it to do what it was supposed to do on its own.  I can’t say that this has done any harm to my crop as I’ve got a glutton of rhubarb to harvest.

It’s not advised that you cut rhubarb stems, the reason being is that once cut, the base of the stem will die and rot into the plant, which is as good as it sounds.   When harvesting rhubarb you want to be sure to pull stems out of the crown of the plant.

Reach as far down along the stem, into the root, as possible and pull a stalk in the same direction in which it’s growing.  You’ll know when you’ve done it right because of the sound – you’ll hear a nice, light, suctioned crunch – if you hear a snap, you may have broken it off at the root (this isn’t the end of the world, and you may accidently do this as I have done on occasion, so try not to lose too much sleep over this!)

You should end up with a nice clean stalk like the one below.

 

I’ve seen people cut rhubarb at differing lengths all over the internet, and I’m sure each variety and each grower has their own personal preference, but personally – I like to cut off the stalk about 2 or 3 inches from the leaf, or when the colour starts to change along the stem.

Can’t wait to make some jam with this and show you the recipe!

Forcing Rhubarb: Champagne Rhubarb

Forcing Champagne Rhubarb involves covering the crown with a pot to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the plant. As the plant looks for light, the shoots will grow longer, producing an early crop. The result should be a rhubarb plant offering fresh, pink stems at least two or three weeks earlier than uncovered crowns.

Traditionally, this method would involve using a rhubarb pot, much like the ones you’d see here.  Instead, I’ve decided to improvise (in true allotment style) and build a structure that will allow me to drape weed control fabric over the whole bed.

Champagne Rhubarb

I know what you’re thinking, and I agree – this does look a little bit unusual, but it is a cost effective solution.  To weigh down the fabric, I’ve placed stones and crockery around the edges of the frame.

Rhubarb-tent

I’ve done some reading on the interweb about Champagne Rhubarb, and there is actually a point of confusion about the term “Champagne Rhubarb”.

Yorkshire Indoor Rhubarb to chefs and cooks is what Champagne is to wine lovers.  Not to be confused with the outdoor variety that I have which is known, as Rhubarb Champagne.

Rhubarb Champagne is an ideal variety to grow an allotment as it’s easy to grow and will put up with quite a bit of neglect. They’re generally quite tough plants that yield a sweet tasting, reliable crop – great in a crumble, as a jam or simply stewed with some ice cream on top.

I’m just hoping my homemade rhubarb forcing frame will put up with the wind and elements as good as the plants!

Forcing Champagne Rhubarb update 6/02/2016

The wind totally decimated the structure I built, so let this be a lesson learned, which is to come up with something more stable when forcing rhubarb! Like rhubarb pots for instance…