Monday, 9 April 2012

The First Rhubarb of the Season

 In the pouring rain this morning I picked the first few sticks of Rhubarb.  I love to eat the young stalks, tender and pink in crumbles, pies and tarts.

The Rhubarb Tart Song

I want another slice of rhubarb tart
I want another lovely slice
I'm not disparaging the blueberry pie
But rhubarb tart is oh so very nice
A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart!
A whatbarb tart? A rhubarb tart!
I want another slice of rhubarb tart!
John Cleese

Pinned Image
via pinterest
It has an interesting history and its roots have been used medicinally as a laxative for at least 5,000 years by the Chinese.  The expense of transportation across Asia caused rhubarb to be highly expensive in mediaeval Europe where it was several times the price of other valuable herbs like saffron, cinammon and pepper.

Pinned Image
via pinterest  - rhubarb and strawberry pie

A measure of the value of rhubarb can be got from Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo's report of his embassy in 1403 to Timur in Samarkand
The best of all merchandise coming to Samarkand was from China: especially silk, satin, musk, rubies, diamond, pearls and rhubarb

Tall stems of cream flowers are produced on mature plants, these are very decorative, and won't harm the plant in any way.

rhubarb - gone to seed
 I have also found out that the leaves of the rhubarb plant can be used as an insecticide.  Just boil up a few pounds of leaves in a few pints of water for 15 mins.  Strain the liquid.  Dissolve soap flakes into this liquid and use it to spray against aphids.
girl carrying rhubarb
If you can keep the plants wet in summer and dry in winter this is all to the good.  Water liberally, and mulch around the stems with manure or grass cuttings to retain moisture.

rhubarb illustration
About every five years plants need dividing - the most vigorous offshoots are generally those that have formed around the edges of a clump.  When pulling stems always leave about four on the plant and it is best not to pull any after midsummer which gives the plant a chance to replenish itself.

Carl Larsson - karin peeling rhubarb
 The plants are very decorative and look good planted in a border.  If more than one plant is grown they should be planted about 3ft. apart.


  1. That was an interesting post Elaine, with some lovely photos too.I remember when we were kids eating raw rhubarb stalks dipped in a bag of sugar.I love rhubarb pie now with custard or cream but I dont grow my own.My space is very limited but my brother in law does and is usually generous!

  2. I'm another Rhubarb fan. Even in my limited space I still have manged to cram in two plants. It's worth it too - in the supermarkets Rhubarb is about £1 a stick.

    I wonder if history tells us who was the first person to import live Rhubarb from China into Yorkshire?

  3. Brilliant post hun, very informative! I don't have the space for it here, the kids won't eat it either. Luckily my neighbour has some just over the wall from me, which she never bothers with so I can just nip over and help myself when I fancy some! Mmmm, rhubarb crumble. . .

  4. We've been picking our first rhubarb too and like Anne I remember dipping raw rhubarb into sugar when I was a child!

    I can remember a new neighbour on finding a clump of rhubarb in their garden thinking it was an ornamental perennial.

  5. Thankyou for sharing that with us Elaine. I love rhubarb crumble - the mixture of sharpness in the rhubarb and the crispiness of the crumble mix and then topped with hot custard and ice cream. Mmmmm sounds inviting.

  6. I made some crumble with the first blanched stalks this weekend. It was so good :)

  7. Thanks for sharing that, planted some rhubarb a few weeks ago so the information is a great help about keeping it wet in summer.. Thank you. x

  8. I 'force' mine under big black plastic pots, so have been enjoying it for several weeks. My favourite is simply cooked in a splash of orange juice with a little sugar. YUM.

  9. I remember my grandparents having a clump of rhubarb in the garden. They used to cover it with a bucket to force it.

  10. I've been trying to grow rhubarb with not much luck. I'll follow your tips and hopefully have a more healthy plant.

  11. Picked my first rhubarb from the allotment this weekend too - really the first crop as newly planted last year so have been waiting for plant to establish. One of my plants is trying to flower and I was told to remove the flowers asap as it will weaken the plant.

    Like the idea of the insecticide - might try that.

  12. Rhubarb and Strawberry...not there's an idea! I think there's still some Strwberries in the freezer from last year. I may have to fish them out!

  13. It's bizarre to think that rhubarb used to be an expensive imported item. But I suppose it can still be pricey in the shops, especially early rhubarb.

    My favourite rhubarb dishes are rhubarb and strawberry jam and rhubarb wine - yum yum!

  14. Mmmmmm - rhubarb crumble coming up here at the weekend. Much food for thought with your informative post Elaine. I have always ignored the advice from fellow allotmenteers to remove the flower heads from my plants so it's good to read your reassuring words. I like the Larsson painting - not one of his that I had come across before.

  15. Nice post, I'm looking forward to picking my first stems in a few weeks time.
    Interesting what you say about the flower stems as the general advice is to remove them as soon as they show.
    Flighty xx

  16. Great post Elaine, love all the phictures and information x

  17. An excellent post Elaine, a real tribute to Rhubarb. I love the stuff, especially in a crumble with ice cream, hot & cold together. Remember my days as a child dipping unripe stems into sugar, eating it & getting belly ache??

  18. Great post :) I'm especially interested in the bit about letting it seed. Some say it weakens the plant. We let ours seed last year and it was lovely to see. He's back full of life this year and tasting just as good - allegedly! I don't like the stuff.

  19. Oh I just love rhubarb-crumble, pie, jam, whatever. However I was amazed at work that many of my younger colleagues have never eaten it... People that haven’t tried it, just don't know what a treat they are missing...

  20. Love your post, I was googling Rhubarb and your blog popped up, I am making my mum's recipe for Rhubarb Tart for my next blog post and so this was very interesting, I am from Scotland but now living in Texas, I am away to google to see if I can get Rhubarb plants for my garden here, wish me luck.

  21. I always tend to think of rhubarb as typically British - good luck with your search.


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