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Sunday, 11 August 2013

Rhubarb Growing - from seed

There can only be a handful of allotment plots that aren't home to Rhubarb. Mine was one, up until recently.

Although not a massive fan of this traditional English desert, (it's a vegetable, not a fruit, you know) I am partial to this spiced rhubarb cake and thought it was about time to get some on the plot.

The most usual route is to obtain 'crowns' from the garden centre/mail-order seed companies etc., but I've never been very mainstream in my approach to stuff. I thought 'why not have a crack at growing some from seed?' So I did.

Among my haul of seeds I picked up while on vacation in France one year, were some rhubarb. Oddly enough, although in French packaging, the seeds were for a traditional English variety. I've lost the seed packet since, so I've no idea which variety, but that's probably not important.

I sowed a few seed in a single plant pot and left them to their own devices. They germinated readily enough, but they never looked robust enough at any stage to plant out, so I just left them. All year.

Fairly early in 2013 I put one into the ground. It died.

At this stage I was regretting not buying a 'crown' or two, just like anybody else. Then, in late spring as I was sorting out my seedlings in my plastic greenhouse thingy, I was amazed to see the rhubarb plants in their little pot, still struggling for survival. Unwatered and generally uncared for, they should have died ages before.

Rather ashamed at my neglect for them, I dished out some TLC and even consented to water them. Within a few weeks they looked happier than ever before, so the least I could do was to try again.

So I transplanted another. And you know what? It survived. In fact, it's doing rather well...

It will need to be left for a couple of years before harvesting, but it will be worth the wait. For this is not a plant that was plucked as a crown from the supermarket shelf and hastily planted.

This was seed born in England, at some stage shipped to France for the French market, purchased and then returned to its homeland. Sown, neglected, yet sufficiently resilient to survive until it was planted into Wiltshire soil, where it now thrives. This Rhubarb has a story. And it will taste all the better for it.

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