Forcing rhubarb for a colour flavour revival

Rhubarb crumble and pies are quintessentially British puddings and the perfect winter warmer. Rhubarb has recently seen a revival with home gardeners and it’s easy to see why.  It’s simple to grow and with other crops quite thin on the ground, forced rhubarb is one of the most delicious of early season treats.

Rhubarb can be forced into production as early as February. The forcing method produces rhubarb that is simply delicious and its flavour is sweeter and tastier than its traditionally grown counterpart.  All you need is a rhubarb forcer (coming soon to Gardenesque), large clay pot, or any other dark vessel you can get your hands on.

By placing a forcer over the plant, it is fooled into thinking spring is on its way with warmer conditions. When light is excluded from the rhubarb, it accelerates its growth as it reaches in search for light, resulting in soft and tender, sweeter stems.

You will need:

  • Rhubarb forcer
  • Brick to cover drainage hole if using a pot
  • Trowel
  • Compost

How to force

  • Choose a well-established rhubarb crown, about 3 years old is ideal.
  • Using your trowel, clear away any leaves, weeds, or excess soil, which has accumulated around the rhubarb crown.
  • Add some compost or some well-rotted manure to the base of the crown to enrich the soil.
  • Cover the rhubarb crown with a forcer, clay pot or any other large container.
  • If using a large pot, cover any drainage holes with a large brick to exclude all light from the rhubarb.
  • These stems are ready to be harvested 8 weeks after you started to force them. Check your rhubarb and harvest when stems are crimson and have reached your desired length. They should pop off easily, don’t cut the stems as this may encourage disease.
  • Be sure to leave a few stems on the plant, rather than harvest all of them. Place the forcer on top of your rhubarb and allow the plant to continue growth and replenish its energy.
  • Once growth season has finished, do not force for the next year but leave to recover.
  • Enjoy your rhubarb’s versatility in the kitchen for both sweet and savoury dishes!

Need some rhubarb inspiration…...feast your eyes on the recipe below:

Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble

Ingredients

Crumble mixture

  • 150g (5oz) plain flour
  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 75g (3oz) golden caster sugar
  • 50g (2oz) porridge oats
  • 50g (2oz) chopped hazelnuts

Filling

  • 450g (1lb) rhubarb washed and trimmed
  • 25g (1oz) stem ginger
  • ¾ tsp cornflour
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar

Instructions

To make the crumble mixture

  • Preheat the oven to 180℃ (160℃ fan)/Gas Marl 4.
  • Place flour and butter into a good-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. 
  • Add caster sugar, porridge oats and chopped hazelnuts to the crumble mixture and stir together until well mixed

To make the filling

  • Cut rhubarb stems into chunks about 3 - 4cm long. Finely chop the stem ginger and sprinkle with cornflour and toss to coat the pieces.
  • Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with 3 tbsp sugar, toss to combine.
  • Spoon the crumble mixture over the fruit.
  • Place the dish onto a sided baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 – 50 minutes.

Enjoy, served with custard or a vanilla ice cream!

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