Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that does so well posing as fruit, it was officially granted the title in 1947. In early spring before plants are fruiting, rhubarb is such a delight. And there’s a tried & true tool I’d love to have, that promises rhubarb far earlier. The rhubarb pot.
Rhubarb forcers are bell shaped pots with a lid covered opening at the top. Used to cover rhubarb to limit photosynthesis, they encourage the plant to grow early in the season and also to produce blanched stems. The pots are placed over two to three year old rhubarb crowns during winter or very early spring. Once shoots appear the lid is taken off, causing them to grow towards the light.
Straw and manure tucked round the pots helps to insulate the terra cotta. Every two or three years a crown can be forced, so being able to remove the pot whilst leaving the plant in the ground, is a brilliant solution.
Forcing rhubarb seems simple enough, and the pots are so charming and sculptural, not unlike another Victorian favourite, the thumb-sprinkler. I adore the the walled kitchen gardens in Europe, with their cold frames, espaliered trees, cloches and rhubarb pots. One day I may venture out to the Rhubarb Triangle, perhaps never to return. I’d love some rhubarb just now, to make a family recipe for rhubarb soup.