The appeal of making a rhubarb crumble to enjoy after Sunday lunch with a homegrown crop is undeniable. Rhubarb is an undemanding and hardy perennial and unlike most crops, it benefits from a cold snap of weather, making it a rewarding plant to grow in the British climate.
After planting rhubarb, the stems must be left unharvested for a year, but from the second year, it can be harvested from April. From the third year, a rhubarb forcer can be used, allowing for a quicker, earlier yield. Rhubarb forcers are bell shaped pots with a lidded opening at the top, traditionally made from terracotta.
Original Organics’ Gutter Mate Rhubarb Forcer is the ideal solution to hasten your rhubarb harvest. This traditional style, plastic terracotta effect forcer is a perfect replica of a traditional Victorian design but is far more practical. The forcer weighs less than a traditional terracotta model and is light enough to move easily, weighing just 3.8kg.
Made from a multi-density polyethylene, it won’t chip or break and the resilient plastic has an attractive terracotta finish, maintaining the traditional beauty of the product, while being far more durable.
To use the forcer, remove any leaves and weeds from around the rhubarb crown, then fertilise the soil around it with homemade garden compost or mulched manure to promote growth. Place the rhubarb forcer over the crown and make sure that any light is excluded. The forced rhubarb should be ready to harvest after around eight weeks.
Rhubarb forcers are designed to promote early growth by creating a dark environment. By restricting light, the stems will grow faster to seek out sunlight. Once the shoots have sprouted, the lid can be removed, allowing the rhubarb shoots to grow towards the sunlight. At this point, the pale stems will begin to turn a beautiful deep pink colour. Stalks can be harvested for cooking when they are around 20-30cm long.
Rhubarb plants can be productive for a long time but forcing the same plant for two consecutive years should be avoided as it can weaken it. For best results, grow multiple rhubarb plants and force them in rotation. This has the added benefit of having two staggered yields of rhubarb each year. It’s best to wait until rhubarb plants are into their third year before forcing them, as young plants may not be resilient enough yet produce early stems, and future growth may be damaged.
Available at originalorganics.co.uk / guttermate.co.uk
Dimensions: Diameter: 50cm Height: 75cm