I Love Rhubarb!
I just love Rhubarb and those first tender, rosy-red stems are an absolute delight! This is of course forced rhubarb and is the first fruit of the growing year.
Except that it isn't a fruit at all, although we always use it as such for pies, crumbles and delicious jams, it is actually a vegetable.
If you've never grown fruit or vegetables before rhubarb is a great way to start, growing it couldn't be easier! It needs very little attention once planted and is very winter hardy, in fact a good frost over winter helps it to produce the best stalks and it is ready to use early in the year when very little else is cropping.
When choosing a site for your rhubarb remember that it will need a bit of space, it develops large leaves making it quite a large plant so give it some space to grow.
Don't harvest your rhubarb for the first year - allow it to settle and out down a good root system first and you will be well rewarded with your future crop.
To get those first tender pinky-red stems early in the season you need to ‘force' your rhubarb. This is done by excluding light from the plant as soon as the crown shows signs of growth, remove any dead leaves or weeds from around the crown and cover it with a large container, bucket or pot to exclude all light.
The plant inside the container will be warmer and combined with the lack of light it will quickly encourage the plant to grow tender stems which could be ready for eating in six to eight weeks, much earlier than plants that have not been forced.
Do not force the rhubarb the following year, it will need to recover. The best way to get the most from your rhubarb is to have 3 crowns then in any year you can have one to force, one to rest and one to crop normally - simple - give it a try!