|Red champagne, early March|
Not only am I surrounded by blossom but there's rhubarb and purple sprouting broccoli to pick too - what's not to love about spring! The rhubarb season is now well under way here in the south-east of the UK - and hopefully where you are too.
I'm spoilt for choice this year as both my Champagne rhubarb plants have got off to a good start this year with nice long pink tasty stems. Since the above photo was taken, both plants have produced a flower stalk - swiftly removed by me - which shows they're not entirely happy growing under the fruit trees. I'll be moving both plants next winter into a sunnier spot with good rich soil.
The Glaskin's Perpetual that I grew from seed a few years ago has been a little slower off the mark. I can live with that though because a friend lets me pick from her very vigorous rhubarb growing on one of the allotment gardens in the flats. Lovely long pink stems have been brought into my kitchen since mid-March. Amazingly, this friend doesn't even like rhubarb so never picks it; I think that's why it's so healthy, its strength has never been depleted by regular picking! Until now, of course. ;) She doesn't know what variety it is, could be Timperley Early going by the timing.
|Using an old school crate to keep marauding animals away.|
At the shared allotment I counted eight rhubarb plants. Eight!! They're quite small so the team thought a little experiment might be in order. A few weeks ago, we chose the runt of the litter to see if we could force a few stems; a tall black bin was placed over the plant and weighed down with a brick. In just a few weeks the bin was removed to reveal a few pretty stems - tall, bright pink, tender and with beautiful yellow green leaves. The proper time to force rhubarb is when the crown is just beginning to show buds - I must remember that for next winter after I've mulched around the plants. The RHS advices to stop forcing rhubarb in April and not take any more stems from the forced plant so that it has time to recover, or to not pick at all from that plant for a few years.
With all these stems to choose from, I'm have a grand old time discovering new recipes. At first I made a compote for yogurt by chopping the stems into 3" lengths, roasting them in the oven, cooling, then chopping stem ginger into this. Simple and tasty.
Then I got a little more adventurous as my niece was coming over for supper. I whipped up meringue for a pavlova, filled with cream and laid roasted rhubarb and chopped stem ginger over the top. Tasty and visually tempting.
|Pretty in pink.|
The stems kept coming so I turned to Nigel Slater's Tender II - a veritable tome of inspiration for fruit growers. Sloe Rhubarb grabbed my attention; a simple affair of roasting rhubarb stems in the oven with a bit of sugar and a good slug of sloe gin. (Plus, later, a few blueberries.) Nigel writes that sloe gin can be hard to get hold of - a very good reason to forage for sloes in the autumn and the reason my foraging has produced a well stocked cupboard. I served the delicious results with some single cream which Mr Slater says is not strictly necessary. Although sometimes it just is.
|Loving the sloe life - and pleased to find a use for my grandmother's Victorian sundae glasses|
With a team get together at the allotment yesterday, a cake was needed so a traybake recipe on the Tesco website looked appealing. It was a bit of a faff to make with lots of washing up after but the results were surprisingly very very good. (The recipe calls for walnuts; I had a bag of mixed nuts so my topping also has almonds and pistachios.)
|Perhaps not just for tea time?|
How do you eat yours?