July 10


Easy Steps to Growing Forced Rhubarb and Harvesting Early for Delicious Pies

How to grow forced rhubarb – easy steps to crop pieplant early

Forcing rhubarb is a gardening technique that allows you to harvest this delicious fruit even in the midst of winter. Rhubarb typically grows in the cool temperatures of spring and early summer, but by controlling the growing conditions, you can have a crop of rhubarb ready to enjoy as early as January or February. This process involves covering the crown of the rhubarb plant with straw or another insulating material to create a dark and cool interior, which stimulates the growth of tender stems without the need for sunlight.

Experts agree that forcing rhubarb in your own home is a simple and rewarding process. Though there are different methods for gardeners to choose from, the basic steps remain the same. First, select a rhubarb variety that is suitable for forcing, such as ‘Champagne’ or ‘Timperley Early’. Then, in late winter, when the weather is still cool, cut back the leaves of the rhubarb plant, leaving only a short stump. Next, cover the crown of the plant with straw, making sure to create a cozy and dark environment for the rhubarb to grow.

It’s important to remember that forcing rhubarb does require some patience. The plant needs to be left undisturbed in its covering for several weeks, allowing the stems to grow long and tender. Once the rhubarb is ready to harvest, gently remove the straw covering and use a sharp knife to cut the stems close to the crown. These forced rhubarb stems are perfect for making pies, crème brûlée, and other delicious desserts.

Forced rhubarb the cream of the rhubarb crop

Forced rhubarb the cream of the rhubarb crop

Forced rhubarb is considered the cream of the rhubarb crop by many horticultural experts. It is a special variety of rhubarb that is grown in a specific way to produce tender, sweet stems. The process of forcing rhubarb involves growing the plant in a dark, warm environment, which encourages early growth and produces a delicious crop.

The key to forcing rhubarb is to start with a well-established crown. Rhubarb crowns can be planted in your garden or purchased from a nursery. It’s important to note that rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it will continue to grow year after year. Once you have a crown established in your garden, you can begin the process of forcing.

Forcing rhubarb is typically done in the late winter or early spring when temperatures are cool and light is limited. The idea is to mimic the conditions of winter, which would naturally slow down the plant’s growth. To do this, you will need to cover the crown with a thick layer of straw or some other type of mulch. This will keep the crown insulated and prevent light from reaching the plant. The lack of light will trigger the plant to send up new shoots in search of sunlight.

During the forcing period, it’s important to keep the crown in a cool, dark area of your home or garden. Temperatures between 50-60°F (10-15°C) are ideal for promoting healthy growth. Keep in mind that rhubarb needs some ventilation, so it’s a good idea to periodically check on the plant and make sure it’s not getting too hot or humid.

Forcing rhubarb timeline
Month Activity
January Cover the rhubarb crown with straw or mulch
February Move the crown to a cool, dark location
March Check on the plant regularly and adjust temperature and ventilation as needed

After a few weeks of forcing, you should start to see new stems growing from the crown. These stems will be pale pink or even white in color, with a tender interior. They are the perfect addition to spring recipes, such as rhubarb crème brûlée or rhubarb pie. Some rhubarb varieties, like ‘Seraphina’, are specifically bred for forcing and will produce exceptional stems.

In terms of harvest, you can typically begin harvesting forced rhubarb in late March or early April. The exact timing will depend on the weather and the specific variety you are growing. To harvest, simply cut the stems close to the crown and use them in your favorite recipes. Be sure to leave a few stems on the plant to allow it to continue growing and storing energy for the next season.

Forced rhubarb is a delightful treat that allows you to enjoy the taste of fresh rhubarb even before the regular growing season begins. Whether you are an avid gardener or just starting out, trying your hand at forcing rhubarb is a fun and rewarding project. Plus, the sweet and tender stems are sure to impress your family and friends!

How to force rhubarb

How to force rhubarb

Growing forced rhubarb is a popular practice for those who want to enjoy this delicious crop earlier than usual. By applying specific techniques, you can have fresh rhubarb ready to harvest as early as March.

Rhubarb is a perennial crop that can be grown in cooler climates. It is widely known for its tart and tangy flavor, making it a perfect ingredient for pies, crèmes, and other desserts. While rhubarb is typically harvested in spring and summer, forcing allows you to harvest it earlier and prolong the growing season.

Where to grow forced rhubarb

Where to grow forced rhubarb

Forced rhubarb is usually grown in a dark or cool place, such as a shed, basement, or garage. These areas provide the necessary darkness and cool temperatures required for the forcing process.

How to force rhubarb

How to force rhubarb

To force rhubarb, follow these easy steps:

  1. Choose a mature rhubarb crown: Select a healthy and mature rhubarb crown that has at least three years of growth.
  2. Prepare the crown: Trim the leaves and stems of the rhubarb crown, leaving only a few inches of the stems.
  3. Place the crown in a pot or container: Gently place the crown in a pot or container filled with compost or soil mix. Make sure to cover the crown completely, leaving the stems exposed.
  4. Provide darkness and cool temperatures: Place the pot or container in a dark and cool area, such as a shed or basement. Avoid direct light and fluctuating temperatures.
  5. Wait for the rhubarb to grow: Keep an eye on the rhubarb crown, and after a few weeks, you will notice new growth. The stems will grow long and tender, ready for harvest.

Harvesting forced rhubarb

Once the forced rhubarb stems have grown to the desired length, you can begin harvesting them. Cut the stems at the base, close to the crown, using a sharp knife or scissors. Be careful not to damage the crown or the surrounding stems.

Forced rhubarb can be harvested continuously throughout its growing season, usually until May or June, depending on the weather conditions and the variety of rhubarb.

It is important to note that forced rhubarb should not be forced for more than two consecutive years. The crown needs time to recover and regain its strength. Allow the rhubarb to grow naturally for a year or two before forcing it again.

Forced rhubarb is a popular crop among home gardeners and commercial growers alike. Its unique and delicious taste, combined with its early harvest, makes it a valuable addition to any garden or kitchen.

If you’re new to forcing rhubarb, it might be useful to seek guidance from experts in horticulture or refer to reliable gardening resources like our magazine.

1 Cover the rhubarb

One of the key requirements for growing forced rhubarb is to cover it with a horticultural forcing pot or a dark bucket to exclude the light. This is necessary because rhubarb needs to grow in the dark to produce long, tender stems. Rhubarb that is grown without covering will have green leaves and stems, which are not suitable for forcing or harvesting.

It is important to cover the rhubarb in late autumn or early winter, before the first frost settles in. The covering should be kept in place until the rhubarb is ready for harvest, usually around late February or early March. The covering will help maintain a cool temperature around the rhubarb crown, which is important for forcing the plant to produce new stems.

There are different types of covers that can be used for forced rhubarb, such as straw, leaves, or even newspaper. The main thing is to create a dark, insulated environment around the rhubarb crown and stems. Some experts even recommend using a combination of covers, like straw and leaves, to provide additional insulation.

When covering the rhubarb, make sure to completely cover the interior of the plant. This means covering the stems, leaves, and the crown of the plant. The covering should extend a few inches beyond the crown to ensure that no light can enter. This will prevent the rhubarb from starting to grow prematurely.

By covering the rhubarb, you are recreating the cold, dark conditions that the plant would naturally experience in the winter. This triggers the rhubarb to allocate energy to its crown, which in turn stimulates the growth of new stems. The forced rhubarb will be ready for harvest in about 8-10 weeks, depending on the weather and growing conditions.

So, to grow forced rhubarb, the first step is to cover it properly. By doing so, you can enjoy an early crop of this delicious and versatile fruit. Whether you use it for pies, crème brûlée, or any other rhubarb-inspired dish, the harvest will be a treat for your taste buds.

2 Keep it warm

One of the most important factors in growing forced rhubarb is maintaining warm temperatures, as this encourages the plant to grow quickly. The best temperature range for forcing rhubarb is between 50-70°F (10-21°C).

Once the dormant crowns have been moved to their forcing area, it is essential to keep the temperature constant. This can be achieved by using a heater or by covering the area with a clear plastic cover to trap heat.

Although rhubarb can tolerate cool temperatures, it is important to avoid freezing temperatures, as this can damage the crop. While forcing the rhubarb, it is a good idea to monitor the weather forecast regularly and take necessary measures to protect the plant from extreme cold.

According to experts, the ideal temperature for forcing rhubarb is around 70°F (21°C). The warm temperature stimulates the plant’s growth, causing it to produce long, tender stems.

Another thing to consider is the light. While it is important for rhubarb to receive natural light, it is equally important to keep it in a warm and dark environment during the forcing process. This helps prevent the growth of green leaves, as it is the stems and not the leaves that are desired for forcing rhubarb.

Some experts recommend placing a layer of straw or soil on top of the rhubarb crowns to provide additional insulation during the forcing process. This helps to maintain a warm and stable environment for the plants to grow.

Keeping the temperature warm and stable is crucial for a successful forced rhubarb harvest. By following the proper temperature and light conditions, you will be able to enjoy early, tender rhubarb stems that are perfect for making pies, crumbles, and other delicious desserts.

3 Harvest the stems

Once the forced rhubarb plants have been growing for around 8-10 weeks, it’s time to harvest the stems. This usually occurs in late January or early February, depending on the weather and temperature conditions.

When you start seeing the stems peeking through the straw, carefully remove the covering. The stems will be long and tender, and usually have a vibrant pink or deep red color. They should be easily pulled away from the base of the plant.

Important note: Never pull all the stems from a single crown, as this can weaken the plant and reduce next year’s crop. Instead, only harvest the thickest and largest stems from each crown.

Experts’ tip: Cut the stems with a knife just above the crown or pull them parallel to the crown. This will help promote continued growth and maximize next year’s harvest.

Home gardeners’ secret: Seraphina, a gardening magazine writer, suggests harvesting rhubarb stems right before making rhubarb crème brûlée! The stems will be at their latest and sweetest stage, making your dessert extra delicious.

Remember that forced rhubarb can only be harvested once during the winter months. If you want to enjoy rhubarb later in the year, you’ll have to plant regular rhubarb that grows in the summer.

Now that you know how to grow and harvest forced rhubarb, enjoy the fruits of your labor and impress your friends and family with delicious pies, desserts, and savory dishes!

Ideas for using forced rhubarb

Ideas for using forced rhubarb

Rhubarb is a versatile and delicious crop that can be used in a variety of sweet and savory recipes. There are many creative ways to enjoy forced rhubarb in your kitchen, and here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Rhubarb pie: This classic dessert is a favorite for many. Simply slice the rhubarb stems and sweeten them with sugar or honey before placing them in a pastry crust. Bake until the rhubarb is tender and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Rhubarb jam: If you have a surplus of forced rhubarb, making jam is a great way to preserve it and enjoy it throughout the year. Simmer the rhubarb with sugar and lemon juice until it thickens, then pour it into sterilized jars and seal.
  • Rhubarb compote: A compote is a stewed fruit dessert that can be served on its own or with yogurt, ice cream, or cake. Stew the rhubarb with sugar and a bit of water until it softens, then let it cool before serving.
  • Rhubarb cocktails: Forced rhubarb can add a tangy and sweet flavor to cocktails. Use it to make a rhubarb syrup by simmering the rhubarb with sugar and water, then strain the syrup and use it to flavor cocktails like a rhubarb gin fizz or a rhubarb margarita.
  • Rhubarb crumble: A rhubarb crumble is a comforting and easy dessert that is perfect for cool weather. Simply stew the rhubarb with sugar and a bit of water, then top it with a mixture of flour, butter, and sugar. Bake until the topping is golden and crispy.
  • Rhubarb sauce: Rhubarb sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Stew the rhubarb with sugar and a bit of water until it breaks down, then use it as a topping for pancakes, waffles, roasted meats, or yogurt.

These are just a few ideas to inspire you to get creative with forced rhubarb. The possibilities are endless, and you can experiment with different flavors and combinations to find your favorite dishes.

Does forced rhubarb taste different

The interior of forced rhubarb is typically more tender and sweeter compared to rhubarb that is grown outdoors. This is due to the way forced rhubarb is grown and harvested.

Forced rhubarb is grown by covering the crown of the plant with a layer of straw or another covering to block out light. This process, known as forcing, stimulates the growth of the rhubarb in the absence of light. In response to the lack of light, the plant produces longer, pale pink stems that are sweeter in taste.

According to horticultural experts, this method of growing rhubarb can result in stems that have a more delicate texture and a milder, less acidic flavor compared to rhubarb grown outdoors. The forcing process also allows for an earlier harvest, giving gardeners the opportunity to enjoy this fruit earlier in the year.

While some people debate whether forced rhubarb tastes better, it is generally agreed upon that the flavor is different. The sweet, tender stems of forced rhubarb are often sought after for use in making pies, crèmes, and other desserts. Additionally, the forced rhubarb is prized for its vibrant pink color, which adds an appealing visual element to dishes.

So, if you’re growing rhubarb at home and want to try forcing it, be sure to follow the proper steps and provide the right conditions. Light is the most important factor, so ensure your forced rhubarb receives minimal light and is kept in a cool environment. With the right care and conditions, you can enjoy the unique and delicious flavor of forced rhubarb.

Why is it called forced rhubarb

In the world of horticulture, there is a fascinating thing called forced rhubarb. But what exactly is it, and why is it called forced rhubarb? Let us explore this intriguing topic.

As an editor of a gardening magazine, I often consult with horticultural experts who enlighten me on the latest trends and practices in the field. One such expert, Seraphina, explained to me that forced rhubarb is a specific method of growing rhubarb, where the plant is manipulated to produce an early crop.

Typically, rhubarb plants grow in homes during the warm temperatures of spring and summer. But when gardeners want to enjoy this tart and tasty fruit early in the season, they resort to forcing. This process involves replicating the ideal environment for rhubarb growth, even when the weather outside is still winter-like.

To force rhubarb, the plants are grown in a cool and dark interior space, often covered or shaded from any natural light. This serves to simulate the winter conditions that rhubarb needs to go through before it can start growing again in the spring. The covering also keeps the temperature cool and prevents the plant from receiving any light, causing its leaves to wither.

Once the plants have gone through their winter-like period, they are ready to be forced. The covering is removed, and the rhubarb is exposed to light and warmth. This sudden change in conditions triggers the plant to start growing again, with the stems sprouting quickly. These forced rhubarb stems, also known as champagne rhubarb, have a vibrant red color and are particularly tender and sweet.

The harvest of forced rhubarb usually takes place in late winter or early spring, around February or March, depending on the geographic location. Gardeners can enjoy an early rhubarb bounty without having to wait for the natural growth cycle.

So, why is it called forced rhubarb? The term “forced” refers to the process of hastening the growth of rhubarb by manipulating its environment. Instead of allowing the plant to grow naturally, gardeners force it to produce an early crop. This technique has been used for centuries and is still popular today, ensuring that rhubarb enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite fruit even before the regular harvest season begins.

In conclusion, while growing forced rhubarb requires some extra effort and attention, the results are well worth it. The delicate, tender stems harvested from forced rhubarb plants make a perfect addition to pies, crème brûlées, and other delectable desserts. Whether you decide to grow your own forced rhubarb at home or purchase it from a local market, be sure to savor this delightful early crop.


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