Forced Rhubarb

Late in February little red rhubarb lumps began to nose out of the dirt.  At first I panicked slightly: wasn’t it too early for delicate young fruit to appear?  Wouldn’t they die in the frost and snow that would inevitably appear throughout the following few months?  After a call to my Dad I discovered that all was well.  Rhubarb is a hardy plant and would happily bear the cold weather.  He also told me that I could force the rhubarb for an early, sweeter crop.

At first I was hesitant – to “force”sounds so cruel – but my impatience to eat food from my garden again was too great and I decided to give it a go, appeasing my conscience by referring to the process as coaxing rather than forcing. 

The process couldn’t have been more simple.  Once the rhubarb (which was a cutting from my Dad’s own rhubarb transplanted to my garden last spring) started to prod through the ground I stuck a bucket on top of it and secured it from the highland winds with a large stone.  Keeping a plant in the dark and expecting it to grow sounded like madness to me but a wee keek every now and again told me that the rhubarb was growing fine. 

 After six weeks the fruit was so big it was struggling for space and it was at this stage that I removed the bucket and began to harvest my rhubarb.

Those of you out there who find rhubarb too sharp to eat, try forced rhubarb.  It has a sweeter, more delicate flavour that might change your mind.  My first use of my first crop of 2008 was very simple: a stewed, spiced rhubarb to stir into porridge, spoon over yogurt or enjoy with ice-cream.

Stewed Rhubarb with Ginger

(enough for 4 bowls of porridge or yogurt)

200g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces

30g  brown sugar (more if you wish)

1/2 tspn ground ginger

  • Pre-heat oven to 200oC. 
  • Add rhubarb to a small oven proof dish and sprinkle with the the sugar and ginger.   Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the fruit is soft and stewing in its own juices.
  • Eat hot, warm or cold.

19 thoughts on “Forced Rhubarb

  1. Ooh – what a wonderful crop of rhubarb. It looks fantastic, Wendy. I am very envious of your garden. And ginger is so delicious with rhubarb. I bet it is really good with porridge.

  2. Thanks for explaining what forced rhubarb is – it has always sounded a little cruel to me too but the process you describe sounds like you are protecting it which is a much nicer thought

    Your rhubarb doesn’t look as pink as some forced ones I have seen – but I quite like the deep red colour of rhubarb – and you are lucky (or is that clever) to have it from your own garden!

  3. Antonia – It really was!

    Deb – I am rather pleased. 🙂

    Lucy – The first one is my favourite. Love the colour and the lines.

    Johanna – I was expecting them to be paler too. Not terrible sure why they were so pink.

    Pixie – Thank you!

    Sara – I haven’t tried that yet. There’s plenty left though.

    Partricia – I hadn’t heard of it until this year either.

    Gen – Ohhh, I know a rhubarb cake that might tempt you…

  4. That’s beautiful Wendy. You are so lucky to have the room to grow your own rhubarb! I’ve heard that you can hear it squeaking while it grows…..

  5. Helen – I did listen to the bucket a few times but to no avail. 🙂

    Susan – Thank you!

    Cynthia – It’s pretty impressive, isn’t it.

    Nina – Glad I’m not the only one excited about these things!

  6. Oh, well done with the rhubarb. I’ve bought some seeds and am already looking forward to next winter’s crop (well, it gives you something in the winter to look forward to). First, though, I must plant them, which I’ve been saying for the past 4 weekends. Hope the tagine went well tonight, and look forward to reading the post about it! 🙂

  7. That rhubarb looks amazing Wendy! I do so love rhubarb! Do you have any tips on how to take a cutting? My parent’s neighbour had rhubarb in his garden, so I could take a cutting from that, I am sure!

  8. Annemarie – From seed? That’s impressive. Will post about the tagine as soon as I make it again. Had a bit of an Fairy Liquid incident with the last batch…

    Holler – As far as I can remember we just dug up a clump of rhubarb from an established plot and just planted it. It looked quite droopy last year but it gorgeous this year.

    Katie – Wonder why that is… Maybe rhubarb prefers damp? Or cold?

  9. Hi all, as a new veg ‘gardener’ i have been very pleased with myself with my first year of growing veg and a successful crop of beetroot, carrotts, lettuce, runner beans and leeks..
    I was given a rhubarb crown by my mother in law and was looking forward to seeing and tasting it once grown. I planted it in an area of my raised beds and sure enough it grew inabunadance. My only concerns are that the stems are green and not red or pinkish in colour and taste sharp.

    Can anyone advise me wheather this will improve as time goes by or if i should try the forcing way of growing it ?

    Any help would be much appreciated…

    Adrian…a rhubarb lover!

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