28 Mar 2014

Let's get ready to {c}rumble


Pudding.  Surely one of the most evocative words in the English language.  At this time of year, if a pudding is to be provided from the garden then rhubarb is one way to go.  So when a neighbour says that she has lots of rhubarb on her allotment garden* and to help myself, I don't need asking twice!

I liked the look of a Danish rhubarb cake seen in the Guardian a couple of weekends ago but found that, unusually for me, I didn't have enough plain flour for the recipe. But I did have just enough to make a crumble topping, following a recipe from my Sarah Raven cookbook**. This recipe also has ground hazelnuts in it, as well as oats, which was rather nice.


The rhubarb plant I picked from is several years in the ground now so has stood well over the mild winter, whereas my veg patch rhubarb plants are still just getting going.  It looks like my friend's plant is ready to be split - there are several points (crowns) where the stems emerge.  It's also good to mulch or feed rhubarb in the spring as this will result in better stems - chicken or comfrey pellets will do, or compost or well-rotted manure, but leave the crowns clear.

If you have room to grow several rhubarb plants, it's a good idea to deliberately choose varieties that crop at different times; I noticed that the Capel Manor kitchen gardeners are currently picking stems from a well established Timperley Early with stems from 'Victoria' and 'Royal Albert' at about 4 inches and 'Stockbridge Arrow' crowns just peeking above the soil level.

I'd borrowed a copy of the RHS Good Fruit and Veg Guide from the college library.  I hadn't heard of either Albert or Stockbridge Arrow so wanted to see if the RHS rated them.  They weren't listed in the book but I was pleased to see that both varieties that I grow - Champagne and Glaskins Perpetual - have earned a mention.  The RHS describes the Champagne rhubarb cultivars to be generally early with sweet tender stems, whilst Glaskins P has a fair flavour but crops over a long period.  I picked stems from my Glaskins rhubarb in early November last year but that's certainly unusual; it will be interesting to see how it does in the months ahead.

There are two more plants that have piqued my interest from the RHS guide:  'Grandad's Favourite' (great name!) is described as a mid-season variety with excellent flavour, while the stems of  'Fulton's Strawberry Surprise' are tender and well-flavoured.  This last one also has an RHS Award of Garden Merit.  Ones to look out for at plant sales if looking to start a rhubarb patch.



* When the flats were built, a small piece of land next to the railway was fenced off for allotment gardens, each typically measuring about 3 x 6 metres. Individual tenants could adopt a plot for growing fruit and veg. They didn't have to be pretty, just well maintained and productive.  In recent years, a growing number of tenants have turned these spaces into private leisure gardens so most are now grassed over (or worse, buried under gravel) and get used on a handful of weekends in the summer.  Three plots are still used for the intended purpose, my friend's plot being one of them. She's also one of the original York Rise Growers.  Nuff said.

** The crumble topping can be found in this Telegraph article.  I whizzed up all ingredients in one of those hand-held blender chopping pots, having partially stewed my rhubarb on the stove top with butter and sugar. (Yes, butter. As instructed in the Guardian recipes. Nice.) Popped into little dishes and cooked for 20 minutes in the oven. Just enough time to make some Bird's lumpy custard. Honestly, I'm not usually that bad at making custard! It still tasted delicious.)




13 comments:

  1. My mum brought me some rhubarb from their garden last week. I've been dreaming of rhubarb crumble all week - definitely this weekend!

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  2. I love crumble whatever the fruit underneath, but rhubarb is one of the best! Such a spring treat. I'm also very taken with the idea of rhubarb cordial (as seen on Sarah Raven's blog this week) but that will have to wait until early summer. Cake and crumble first!! Enjoy your pudding at the weekend!

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  3. My rhubarb patch is so overgrown with grass that I think I will need to lift it later on and see if it can be saved. It is peeking out at the moment though, so I might have some stems. My rhubarb at home rotted in a particularly wet winter - the crown was literally dripping with water when I dug it up. Can't wait for some rhubarb crumble!

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  4. Rhubarb is an exclusive plant here. Here, it's called 'klembak'. It's only grown on the mountain side with the cold and dry weather. Traditonal farmer usually grow rhubarb for it's root as a medicinal stuff. There are just a few farmer that grow rhubarb for vegetable. They just plant it for a little amount, vaused by the limited consumers, only expatriat that live here. Look so interesting to know your 'rhubarb world'.

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  5. We have several varieties that extend the season. We did try Strawberry Surprise but it never got going and died. Lat year I made rhubarb crumble muffins which were delicious you've reminded me to make them again.

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  6. I'll be picking my first rhubarb this weekend and yes, crumble will be on the menu, with a bit of ginger added, they go beautifully together. I bought a third crown the other year and thought I had lost it over the winter, but yesterday noticed that it has just started to peek through the soil, must be a late variety.

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  7. I've inherited several rhubarb crowns on my new plot but I don't know the varieties, one is nearly ready for picking though. I've got a Stockbridge Arrow crown which I'd just planted on my old allotment when I got offered the new one, so I dug it up and it's still in the container waiting to be planted out on the new plot, so I haven't tasted it yet, but apparently, it's a modern variety, a good cropper with a great taste.

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  8. A good post. I'm not that fussed about rhubarb but like you do love crumble, with apple and blackberry being my favourite.
    It seems a shame that people don't use those plots more productively. Flighty xx

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  9. Ahhwww crumble, absolutely love crumble, any crumble!!! I want some now, now that you've reminded me of it!

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  10. Oh that crumble looks fab, how lucky to be offered it. Mine has yet to appear I'm beginning to think it may have died.....so I'll have to raid your friends!xxx

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  11. I've used that recipe too. Absolutely delicious!!

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  12. I have a small patch of Rhubarb; too small for my liking, but it is in a place that is far from ideal and struggles to do much more than survive. I do take a small crop from it each year though. One of my favourite combos with Rhubarb is orange and ginger. (There's a recipe on my blog soewhere if you're interested...)
    It's a shame about those "veg plots" at the flats. Isn't there a bylaw you can invoke to insist that tenants grow edible stuff or else relinquish the plot to someone who will (like you!)?

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  13. The p word always makes me smile Caro as the older of my two younger brothers really loved his puds when he was young so was nicknamed 'Pudding'. Funnily enough he grew up to become a food scientist. A great post title :)

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Caro x

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