How to grow succulent Rhubarb
Personal advice and tips from Farmer Chris
Our first crop of the season!
“Rhubarb is one of the oldest and easiest crops to cultivate, and tastes delicious with our freshly picked strawberries!”
Records show that rhubarb was first cultivated in China 5,000 years ago, and became popular in Europe during the 18th Century. It will always have a very nostalgic taste for me, as I remember as a boy picking fresh stalks for my mother to make one of my most favourite desserts – stewed rhubarb and sultanas served with a big swirl of cream! I still love it today and often put a spoon of chilled, stewed rhubarb on my breakfast muesli and find myself popping into our Café when rhubarb crumble & custard are on the menu!
I have been growing main crop rhubarb at Canalside since 2014. There are many varieties available, but I have chosen to cultivate ‘Victoria’ and ‘Timperley Early’ for their superb taste and to ensure that we can provide our customers with farm fresh stalks from spring right through to autumn.
Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable (it’s related to sorrel and dock) but it is often treated as a fruit despite its tart flavour. In the UK rhubarb grows in two crops:- the first arrives early in the year forced grown under pots (principally around Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford known as the ‘rhubarb triangle)’ and is the more tender and delicately flavoured; the second, known as ‘main crop rhubarb’ is grown outdoors, and arriving in spring has a more intense flavour and robust texture.
Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial, dying down in autumn and bouncing back with incredible vigour in spring. It is easy to grow, incredibly hardy and a healthy plant will remain productive for 10 years or more! Its leaf stalks or petioles (i.e. ‘sticks’ or ‘stems’ to most of us!) can grow up to 1 metre high and 1 metre wide.
Home-grown rhubarb tastes so much better than tinned and once planted it will grow without fuss. Given a little bit of extra care and attention it can be a star crop in your garden, so do give it a go. You will not be disappointed!