Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb….

Well we managed to get two jobs done this weekend – rhubarb crowns and garlic planted.

We had rhubarb in the garden but it had been there for at least 20 years. It had stopped producing anything worth trying to eat and after moving it to a new position last year it seemed to have given up. I have since discovered that plants should be replaced after ten years which probably explains it!

We decided to start again and bought two crowns each of “Victoria” and “Red Champagne”. We went for these varieties purely because that was all the garden centre had!

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“Victoria” promises to be high yielding with a tangy flavour (not sour) and “Red Champagne” is an easy to grow sweet tasting variety.

According to the labels, rhubarb requires rich soil including plenty of well rotted compost / manure if available. Dig over the area with a fork and plant the crown so the top is just level with the surface.  So we did!

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If we are to believe what is written about rhubarb then that should pretty much be all we have to do other than remove flowering stems in the summer, dead leaves in the autumn and cover it with some manure for the winter.

A couple of years ago Mr Mac tried forcing the rhubarb we had by using a section of drainage pipe with a brick over the top. However, with these new plants we need to let them establish for a couple of years before forcing them.

Interesting rhubarb facts:

  • Rhubarb growers in the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle – between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield – have applied to the EU for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). If successful, Yorkshire indoor rhubarb would join a prestigious list that includes Parma ham, Normandy Camembert and Newcastle Brown Ale.
  • Yorkshire indoor rhubarb is produced from crowns that are cultivated outside for two years before being moved indoors and grown in the dark in special sheds and harvested by candle light!
  • Rhubarb was brought to Europe by Marco Polo and was used as a medicinal product for centuries to treat stomach, lung and liver complaints before it made its crumble debut.
  • Rhubarb leaves should NOT be eaten but they contain poisonous oxalic acid which is said to kill off club root fungus, the scourge of the brassica crop. It was the active ingredient in now withdrawn club root chemical controls. Tear a leaf into small pieces and add one to the bottom of each planting hole before planting brassicas.
  • Rhubarb’s high calcium content has made it a popular metabolism booster among slimmers.

I’m looking forward to my first rhubarb crumble.

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