Rhubarb Memories

My love of rhubarb is a long lasting one. I have early memories of sitting on top of the rabbit hutch, legs dangling and dipping freshly cut rhubarb into a cup of sugar… I wear these sweet and sour  memories like a rhubarb coloured coat that feels really cosy.
The two bunches of rhubarb below were picked at the same time – one from the forced plant and one from the traditional patch. Rhubarb is easy to harvest as all you have to do is pull and twist the stalk at the base and it will neatly come away. From the photos you can see that the forced rhubarb has much smaller leaves but the stems are cleaner and more colourful being a beautiful pinky/red.

Compare The Rhubarb

I washed the rhubarb well, mouth watering and chopped it into bite size pieces and the taste test was completed when the rhubarb was raw. And the results? Well, the forced rhubarb was noticeably sweeter and had more of the rhubarb tang to it so I’d definitely recommend forcing it if you can.
There’s so many things you can do with rhubarb – crumble, pie, cobbler, fools and cakes to mention a few. It is also good with strawberries to sweeten it and even with mackerel (although I have never tried this combo!). Rhubarb and custard are delightful together but I had a hankering for Rhubarb ice-cream. The recipe below is really simple, there’s no churning involved and I ate a quarter of the tub before remembering to take a photograph.

Honey Roasted Rhubarb Icecream
Bear with me – I threw this together so feel free to experiment.

1 carton of whipping cream
1/3 cup of icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of chopped rhubarb
Enough honey to drizzle

Spread the freshly cut rhubarb onto a non stick sheet and drizzle in honey. Slow roast for 20 mins or so under soft and bubbling slightly. In the meantime whisk the cream into soft peaks (not too much) and stir in the sifted icing sugar (to suit taste). Once the roasted rhubarb has cooled fold in this gently into the cream mixture, pour into a suitable container and then into the freezer for a couple of hours. I like the rippled effect but if your mix it more thoroughly you’ll get a lovely pink coloured ice-cream!

Rhubarb Icecream

Rhubarb Cake

This was a Pinterest recipe treasure I found for Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake at Dulce Dough:

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 1/2 cups raw rhubarb, cut small

Topping:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 325°F  2. Prepare 9×13 or 8×12 pan by spraying with cooking spray  3. Cream butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl  4. Add eggs and vanilla and stir  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt  6. Alternately stir in the buttermilk and the flour mixture into the other ingredients  7. Fold in rhubarb  8. Pour into prepared pan  9. Combine sugar and cinnamon for topping and sprinkle on top of cake  10. Bake in 9×13 or 8×12 pan at 325°F for 40 minutes.
Prep time: 15 minsCook time: 40 mins. Total time: 55 mins. Yield: 1 cake

Rhubarb Cake

The cake had the texture of carrot cake (rhubarb is a veg I suppose) and was especially nice on Day 2. It is really delicious warmed slightly and served with a portion of the rhubarb ice-cream… but that might be one stalk too far for all but the seasoned rhubarb muncher!!

For More Rhubarb Ideas Visit My Pinterest Site  (no need to knock, just come on in!)

Spring Brights

Spring FlowersMy poor little plastic greenhouse didn’t survive the high winds and neither did the pots and trays of seedlings. I’m not too disheartened though as the remains of the greenhouse was found next to my car and luckily there was no damage to the paint work! I’ve scooped up the soil and battered seedlings (RIP) and decided to wait a couple of weeks and plant directly as I can’t risk growing more seeds indoors (crious cats) and the greenhouse is now modern art.

Forced Rhubarb

I uncovered the rhubarb that has been forced (don’t think me too cruel) and was amazed at the beautiful colours of the leaves and stems. The rhubarb plant to the rear in the photo above is the same variety – this has been left to grow normally so I’m going to do a taste test at the weekend to see if the forced rhubarb is really sweeter… or just grateful to see daylight at long last!

March Garden

 

Early March

The days are noticeably longer and there is a whiff of Spring in the air. When I went outside this afternoon my mind was set on scratching about a bit but, in all honesty, there wasn’t that much to do. I pulled up a few weeds, did a spot of sweeping and then spent the rest of the time wandering around having a good look at the plants waking up from their sleep. Unfortunately, all the weeds are waking up from their sleep too so I’m currently trying to stay ahead of the game.
The sun was out for a few hours this morning and I once again had to restrain myself from sowing seeds – it’s still too cold and we don’t have  a greenhouse yet! The seed box is laughing at me but I won’t play it’s games ;-)

Kitties

The kitties are growing so fast… they’re being neutered tomorrow and I already feel anxious. I know that it’s the responsible thing to do but it doesn’t stop me fretting about them. I just have to keep focused on them being able to go outside, chase rabbits and fall sleep in the Kitchen Garden. It will be lovely to hear the cat flap swinging to and fro again… I just need to get some collars with bells on to give the birds fair warning.

Rhubarb ♥

I planted some “Champagne” rhubarb this year and I was prepared to patiently wait until next year before our first harvest (which is so unlike me). I was delighted when a clump of our old rhubarb, against the odds, started to grow. You see, this rhubarb has been trampled on, dug over, excavated and finally compacted as part of the ongoing building work. We were sad about this as it had come from a neighbour’s garden, who sadly died a couple of years ago, so this has always been known as Fred’s Rhubarb.

Fred's Rhubarb

I’ve always loved Rhubarb… the fact that we use it as a fruit but it’s actually a vegetable and it has delicious edible stems but it’s leaves are poisonous means that it’s as contrary as I am!. One of my earliest childhood memories is eating rhubarb in the sunshine whilst sitting on top of a Rabbit hutch, with a small teacup of sugar in one hand and a freshly picked, pink stalk of rhubarb in the other. The combination of sweet and sour tastes kept me quiet for a while! Not good for the teeth but it was an occasional treat that gave my lovely Mum some peace!

My tastes have changed a little, and whilst rhubarb dipped in sugar is safely consigned to my happy memories now, I have a few more favourite recipes. My first choice is rhubarb crumble… especially when the crumble is made with plenty of cinnamon and toasted hazelnuts. I prefer vanilla icecream with mine – but what’s your favourite?

Rhubarb & Cinnamon CrumbleI also love iced teas – have you tried the rhubarb ones? Wow! Zingy and refreshing! I usually have some frozen rhubarb in the freezer and so this is a great drink to make in the Summer. This particular recipe is from Martha Stewart and can be tweaked according to your tastes… how does a little added Cointreau and slices of orange sound for a special occasion?

Rhubarb Iced Tea

Old fashioned Rhubarb & Custard sweets…

…and a great cartoon from the 1970′s called Roobarb and Custard! To be honest I can’t remember the cartoon very well but always LOVED the theme tune!

Roobarb and custard 1974- YouTube.

I was hoping to spend sometime in the garden but the weather has been awful – high winds, constant rain and it’s so cold that we’ve had to put the heating back on! The wettest drought on record I should think!!

Looking Forward to April Showers

What a busy month March has been – where has it gone?!? It has been unseasonably warm and the pyjamas were swapped for shorts last week. Unfortunately, the down side of this is that the reservoirs are low and there are many parts of the country that already have water restrictions and hose pipe bans! Thankfully we’re unaffected at the moment but it’s only a matter of time I suppose.

The seed trays and plants were making it difficult to get into the utility room so we bought a cheap plastic greenhouse which has been invaluable! It doesn’t look very pretty, and once we have saved some money, we’ll be getting a wooden framed greenhouse but unfortunately this isn’t near the top of our essential list yet!

The good news is that our rabbit friends have stopped getting into the kitchen garden… the “Keep Out” sign obviously worked wonders (…the perimeter fencing may have helped a little too!).

This month I’m looking forward to April showers, Easter and fetching some new chickens… I’m loving the new garden and catch myself smiling for no other reason apart from being outside with the plants and seeds :-)

 

Garden Plans ……..

I’ve come across the original copy of my Kitchen Garden plans and they’ve made me smile….. because they’re embarrassingly basic!! In my imagination the Kitchen Garden is always full of healthy herbs, climbing plants, seasonal produce and plenty of flowers for the bees and butterflies. Mmm, I should have paid full attention in Art class at school as my sketch is rather primitive! My lovely husband used CAD to make it a workable diagram for the builder….. everything else is in my head (no hope for anyone but me then)! 

Kitchen Garden Plans

Fortunately, the work in progress looks more like my vision than the sketch does!! The raised beds are now complete, the new hedges have been laid and all we’ve now got to complete the French drains, put some stone down and wait for Spring! There are new changes every week and I want to capture what happens and, hopefully, look back with happiness. All I see at the moment, however, is a huge amount of bare brickwork that is crying out to be covered with plants!

The garden has 7 raised beds in total and a central island that can be used for a fountain/birdbath. The Nectar Bar will be planted to attract bees and butterflies and there is a secluded area behind this bar where we’ll be able to relax (or hide!).

The perennial vegetable bed contains asparagus and rhubarb and I keep excitedly rushing home from work to looking for signs of life before it gets dark!

Perennial Bed

I’m pleased to say that I’ve found the cutest baby asparagus spear! It’s smaller than a matchstick but looks perfectly formed already… As I’ve already mentioned, I’m usually too impatient to get dressed before dashing outside so it will be torture for me to wait a couple more years before harvesting.

Tiny Asparagus shoot

I’ve always felt drawn to Victorian walled gardens and love visiting stately homes to see them. I’m off to Chatsworth House next week and will hopefully come back with even more inspiration… only on a much smaller scale!