Surprise harvest...

15 June, 2013

I love how the garden can surprise me sometimes. Whether that be some self seeded watermelons cropping up way earlier than I would have sown them, or crops lasting well beyond when you thought they would, or even sadly trees you had waited years to fruit somehow cropping something which was most definitely not what you had expected.

Today's harvest was meant to be potatoes. It was rhubarb.

Let me explain.

Many months ago (I can't remember exactly when, but I guess around mid summer) some volunteer potato plants came up next to one of the rhubarb plants. Never being one to deny a plant the right to life, I let these potatoes grow. I even encouraged them by stacking up these wide cardboard rings around the plants and filling them with compost so the potatoes grew higher, which supposedly means more potatoes.

They grew well over the summer months. They were lush and green potato plants, and as I kept stacking and filling they kept growing. Then over the recent cool spell they died back, and I left the cardboard compost stack alone thinking I can wait until I want some potatoes before pulling down the stack and rummaging in the compost for the lovely starchy tubers.

So it came to a dreary day like today where the grey clouds were out and it was cold and I felt in need of some carbohydrate induced cosiness. I braved the outdoor chill and removed the stacked layers of cardboard and rifled through the compost layers.

And there was not a potato to be found. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

It was so depressing.

But as I dug down I did find something unexpected. Some of the nearby rhubarb had made its way into the base of the cardboard stack and was attempting to grow through the compost. The effect was exactly the same as forcing rhubarb as the light deprived stems were a gorgeous delicate pink and a complete contrast to the grey-red of the exposed plant.

The thin light deprived stems are to the right, with the exposed plant to the left.

This shows even more clearly the difference.

So I picked as many of the pale pink gorgeous stems as I could. They needed a bit of a wash to get the compost off.

But once clean their fairy floss pinkness was even more evident.

Now I've read that forced rhubarb is a delicacy, but I've never thought that the homegrown rhubarb I've had needed much improving. But this surprise harvest was an opportunity to try something I'd probably never bother to try growing on purpose.

The rhubarb stems were cooked as I always cook rhubarb: chop roughly, put into pot, scatter with a little sugar and lemon juice, put onto medium heat, wait until boiling then turn of heat and leave on the hob for 5 mins with the lid on. Do not even consider stirring, as you will end up with mush. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Now, I still felt like a carb hit was in order, so I made some porridge. Actually the thermomix made it. 40g oats, 220g milk, pinch salt, on 100 degrees, reverse, for 10 mins, speed 1 with the measuring cup off (this will make sense to thermomixers.) For all those who don't speak thermomix, just put 1/3 cup oats and 1 cup milk in a pan, heat on medium until boiling then cook, stirring frequently, until oats are soft.

Porridge for lunch. It was a delicious, warm, carby hug of a meal and totally hit the spot. Don't knock it til you've tried it.

And the rhubarb? Let me just say that I'll be purposely forcing rhubarb in future. So much less fiberous than the regular stuff, and a gorgeous colour and texture. But the taste was to die for!


  1. I have a terracotta rhubarb forcing pot I bought at a sale. I've only ever used it as garden decoration. Maybe I should use it for its intended purpose!

    1. Oh, I'm jealous. I looked for one for about 6 months then gave up, probably about the time I decided forcing wasn't for me. Now I'll have to start looking again!

  2. I've never tried to force rhubarb but now I'm clearly going to have to. Good compensation for the lack of spuds. Incidentally I rarely get much of a yield from spuds grown over Summer and Autumn either.

    1. Yes, do give it a try and see what you think. I remember reading about your potato growing experience, and will use that to guide my intentional spud growing, though from now on if any summer volunteers come up I won't have too high hopes...

  3. I discovered the joys of forcing this year with sea kale - it's like a totally different veg. Definitely worth doing. You need to give the plant a rest the following year though. So if you had three clumps of rhubarb it would be one to force, one to pick as main crop and one resting each year.

    1. Interesting. That's one I've read about but I've never seen over here. Must keep a closer eye out though. And thanks for the forcing/resting tips!

  4. Would you look at that! Fantastic. I will be forcing rhubarb too, but I do remember reading somewhere(sometime) that you should only force rhubarb so many times before letting it do its natural thing. I think it takes lots out of the plants. (And now I have just read Asparagus Pea who has much more specific information!).

  5. Cheers! I'd love to hear how your rhubarb forcing adventures go.