Growing things is in my family background. On my father's side my Great Grandmother was a market gardener on Hounslow Heath (famous for Dick Turpin in an earlier time and now known as Heathrow Airport! In fact, my dad was born on the farm now occupied by the Queens Building). Sadly I don't remember my maternal grandfather but he also lived in west London and had an allotment. My mum remembers him bringing home produce wrapped in a large rhubarb leaf (and flowers for my grandmother).
Here's my dad at the airport late 1927/early 1928
And just for balance...
My mum and her dad about a year later in my all-time favourite family photo. She was visiting him at Broadlands, Earl Mountbatten's home in Hampshire, where he was the foreman master plumber installing a new central heating system (finally replaced about 5 years ago).
Rhubarb is always something that has been in my bowl from an early age so when I too had an allotment it was one of the first plants I put in and the same when we moved to Norfolk. A good friend, Joanna, gave me an American version, which I think is called Big Red, because it has big red stalks (I might have made that up - maybe she could confirm?!). Big Red is also the name of our No. 2 cockerel because of his massive comb. One day he will be master of all he surveys.
Anyhow, as it is Easter I think lamb will be on the menu for Easter Sunday - the day of new life. It will be followed by this simple crumble with rhubarb from the garden and cream.
I like my crumble quite tart so you may want to up the sugar content a little.
Ingredients 10 sticks of rhubarb 4 tbsp water, although I prefer to use port or home-made sloe gin 8 tbsp caster sugar 1 tsp powdered ginger 110g/4oz butter, softened 110g/4oz demerara sugar 20g/¾oz ground almonds
180g/6oz flour To serve: ice cream or double cream
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Cut the rhubarb into 7½cm/3in long sticks and place on an oven tray, sprinkle with the water and caster sugar and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven, sprinkle over the ginger and mix well.
Fill an ovenproof dish about 4cm/1½in deep with the rhubarb.
Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make the crumble topping.
Sprinkle over the rhubarb, adding the demerara and bake in the oven for about 40 mins, making sure the top doesn’t burn.
Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with ice cream or double cream.
Rhubarb Crumble – no sugar
Ingredients 10 sticks of rhubarb 4 tbsp water, although I prefer to use port or some of our home-made sloe gin 2 level tbsp stevia 1 tsp powdered ginger 110g/4oz butter, softened 1dsp stevia to sprinkle on the top of the crumble before cooking 20g/¾oz ground almonds
180/6oz flour To serve: ice cream or double cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Cut the rhubarb into 7½cm/3in long sticks and place on an oven tray, sprinkle with the water (sloe gin or port) and caster sugar and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
3. Once cooked, remove from the oven, sprinkle over the ginger and mix well.
4. Fill an ovenproof dish about 4cm/1½in deep with the rhubarb.
5. Rub the butter into the flour and almonds and stevia to make the crumble topping.
6. Sprinkle crumble over the rhubarb, adding a little stevia to the top and bake in the oven for about 40 mins, making sure the top doesn’t burn.
7. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with ice cream or double cream.
The Chinese call rhubarb "the great yellow" and have used rhubarb root for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. During Islamic times, it was imported along the Silk Road, reaching Europe in the 14th century through the ports of Aleppo and Smyrna, where it became known as "Turkish rhubarb". Later, it also started arriving via the new maritime routes, or overland through Russia. The "Russian rhubarb" was the most valued. The cost of transportation across Asia made rhubarb expensive in medieval Europe. It was several times the price of other valuable herbs and spices such as cinnamon, opium, and saffron.
I don't 'force' my rhubarb, rather allowing nature to take its course, but there are great myths about this Victorian fashion and the origin of one of the most popular varieties - check it out at: https://www.history.com/news/rhubarb-a-love-affair
If you want to grow rhubarb all you need to know is at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/rhubarb
Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...
"disaster-altruism - the quick generating forms of kindness & mutualism that can spring up in times of crisis."
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich