21 Apr 2016
Pickings and Pie
This year I have three rhubarb plants. I don't need three, I needed one (all that my space would allow) and grew Glaskins' Perpetual from a seed several years ago. It's huge and not very pink but I feel very proprietorial as I nurtured it into life all by myself. Even so, when I saw Red Champagne crowns for sale a couple of years ago, of course I thought they sounded better. Red. Champagne. Mm mmm, what's not to love?
I bought two crowns, planted them under the fruit trees as I'd read that rhubarb could tolerate a bit of shade and where (at the time) there was plenty of bare earth that needed covering and left them to it. I thought I'd lost one plant last year as, without a hose, things get pretty dry under the trees. The other decided to flower you may remember. I wondered whether I'd ever get to taste any red champagne sticks but the crowns were inexpensive so it wouldn't be a huge loss. But reports of the death of my champagne rhubarb crowns were premature.
This spring, with the winter being relatively short lived and the rain lasting rather longer, I've watched rhubarb sticks from all three crowns gradually appearing over the past few weeks. At one point I was tempted to plonk a black plastic bucket over one of them to try my hand at forcing but, as tends to happen, I didn't get round to it. (Anyone had any success doing this? And is it worth it?)
Serendipitously, I opened an email from Simple Things mag last week to find a recipe for Rhubarb and Rosewater Tart. The timing was immaculate as I had the rhubarb in the garden and was in the mood for baking - and had some shop bought cheat's sweet shortcrust pastry in the fridge that needed using. (I'd like to say that I whipped up a batch of home-made pastry but I didn't. There.) It was delicious, whether eaten with cardamon flavoured cream or with friends and family. I made the pie in a smaller tin than suggested to share with family and used the extra filling with a dollop of jam in a small batch of Maids of Honour tarts for my goodie tin at home.
I've lost track of where we are in the gardener's calendar - I assume everyone's rhubarb is up and growing vigorously? If you like the sound of the pie, the recipe is here and, with ready made pastry, is a doddle to make. (The addition of rosewater is delicious but could be omitted if you have none, leaving a rhubarb and frangipane pie.)