Although we enjoy rhubarb in many sweet dishes and are often thought of as a fruit, this hardy crop is a vegetable. Once established, rhubarb is an easy-care plant and will provide plenty of sweet-tart stems for your cooking endeavours. Just remember, the leaves are poisonous, so only ever consume the stems.
Find a bright, sunny spot in your garden with fertile well-draining soil. Before planting, you can prepare your soil by incorporating organic matter such as compost and sheep pellets, then mix in Oderings Fruit & Veggie Mix. Make sure your planting spot doesn't get waterlogged as rhubarb dislike wet feet, and this can cause damage to the roots. Just before planting, you can soak the plants in seaweed tonic to help prevent transplant shock. Leave plenty of space (up to 90cm for very leafy varieties) between the plants to allow for bushy leaf growth.
The main growing period for rhubarb is spring and summer, so this is the time to feed. Rhubarb are gross feeders, so a good serving of blood and bone is ideal as it contains the necessary nitrogen and phosphorus for strong leaves and stems. Some varieties will produce stems all year round, while others will go dormant over the cooler months. Either way, you can stop feeding over these cooler months as the new growth will be much less.
Harvesting & Maintenance
Allow your plants to become established before harvesting; this may mean waiting till their second year. It is best to remove the stems by pulling them down and out in a twisting movement, being careful to hold the base of the plant. If they don't twist out, then cut the stems as close to the base as possible. Leaving the stems on the plant for too long can ruin the taste and cause the stems to yellow. If your plant produces flowers, it is best to remove them as soon as you see them, so your plants will continue to produce nice fleshy stems.
Rhubarb Sponge Recipe
Cut the rhubarb stems into small pieces and cook with a bit of water until soft. Once cooked, add enough sugar till it is sweet enough for your taste. Put rhubarb into an ovenproof dish and keep warm.
Add the sifted flour and baking powder into the creamed butter mixture and mix well.
Pour mix onto hot rhubarb. Bake at 190c for 45 minutes.
Serve hot with cream, ice cream or custard.