Forcing Rhubarb

Last year I treated myself to a terracotta rhubarb forcer for my birthday, using the money I’d been given as a gift. The forcing jar spent much of the year nestled alongside the rhubarb looking rather stylish, eventually disappearing behind a jungle of rhubarb leaves. My rhubarb crown is just over 3 years old so I’m going to start forcing it. I grow Timperley Early rhubarb, as the name suggests you do get an earlier crop than other rhubarb, forcing this variety isn’t going to make that much difference with cropping time but what I’m after is the beautiful pink stems and sweet champagne flavour that forcing produces.

You can force established rhubarb by covering the crown with a forcing jar, an upturned dustbin or water-butt will do the job just as well. Doing this creates a dark and warm environment inside, forcing the stems into premature growth. Once you force a crown you should allow it to crop naturally the following year, forcing it year after year could seriously weaken it. Some gardeners force the same crown annually with no problems and would disagree with the advice above, I just tend to be a bit more cautious. A good tip is to grow 3 crowns, allow one to recover from being forced the previous year, force one and let the other crop naturally, when it should. However, keep in mind that rhubarb is a thug once established, each crown needs plenty of space and they’re hungry plants.

I’m looking forward to tucking into champagne flavoured crumbles and fools.

13 comments

  1. I have never considered forcing rhubarb as I get sick of it as it is, I have three crowns and more rhubarb than I know what to do with. Love your earthenware forcer though.

  2. I am trying this with one of my crowns this year, we love rhubarb here so the sooner it grows the better!

    I have left an award for you over on my blog, I really love your no nonsense approach to gardening and your lovely pictures.

  3. Hi Shaz,

    Wow what a lovely surprise, an award! Thank you for considering my blog for this award, I’m chuffed. Yay!

  4. ‘Tis a cut-throat business, forced rhubarb.

    I gained access last yield to a field with a _serious_ amount of rhubarb… talking about three or four supermarket trolleys worth. I’m not really a sugary person, so concentrated on chutneys and ketchups… I might have them finished before the next crop is ready.

    ~alec

  5. I noticed some buds on my rhubarb the other day so I need to get cracking if I want to force some but I haven’t got anything big enough to put over them. I used a spare compost dalek last year but its in use now. Will have to have a poke around in the shed to see if I have anything suitable. That’s if I can get into the shed!! I agree the taste of forced rhubarb is lovely much nicer than the summer rhubarb.

  6. I think I’m going to struggle to get all the buds under my forcer. A good excuse to buy another one this year!

  7. I’ve just moved my five crowns of rhubarb so I won’t be forcing any this year. I hope to plant a few more new crowns in February and plan to experiment with lots of rhubarb jams and marmalades!

  8. Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment. Depending on the size of a crown they’re sometimes difficult to completely cover with a forcing jar (as I found with mine!). From past experience it should work fine. I was able to extend the picking season using the un-forced part of the plant through till summer.

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