Monday, 9 March 2009

Keep it in the family, or amongst friends

P3090029I was asked what I plan to do with my rhubarb this year. Well, the short answer is: nothing.

The longer version is that when we decided to move over to Cumbria one of my first concerns was the rhubarb, “How can I leave that here?”. The simple answer was that I had to take it with us. So, I duly dug up the rhubarb last January, popped as much as I could into pots and brought it over to Cumbria. The previous autumn I had split it, so I was a bit wary about transporting it and leaving in it pots indefinitely, so soon after. To spread the risk I also gave some to a friend who has promised to give me some back when we finally settle.

Last year it really didn’t do well in pots and was at least a quarter of the size it usually is (that may have had something to do with my forgetting to water it). I hadn’t expected it to still be in pots now, or for us to still be in a rented house for that matter. For the time being at least it seems happier this year, but I don’t want to rock-the-boat and risk weakening it again two years in a row. So it will continue to sit by the backdoor in the courtyard and be much admired this year, so long as the cat leaves it alone. Unless of course it grows strongly and then rhubarb crumble will be on the menu!

I really should explain why I’m quite so worried about my rhubarb. This rhubarb is a little bit like a family heirloom to me. Some families pass down the family silver, but the rhubarb has been passed down on my mum’s side of the family for about a century.

It originated in my great-grandfather's vegetable plot, then moved onto my grandfather’s two successive homes, then onto my mother’s garden, and now some has come to me. My mum forgot to take some with her when she moved, so some of mine went to her new home where it now thrives.

With that legacy behind it, maybe I shouldn’t worry whether it is a survivor; like me, it seems to thrive on change wherever it is placed.

The primary function of growing vegetables is usually to create food; and at the moment with the current economic climate the practice is increasingly being heralded as a way of saving money, which is not a bad thing! But vegetables (and growing them) can also be associated with other things such as memories or family, or they may just bring out a smile on a rainy day. Surely that’s just as important?


  1. I love the post, we pass along vegetables in our family too. I always show great promise in the beginning, but something always seems to happen, and I frequently watch an innocent living being tortured by my ineptness.

    I love rhubarb! Rhubarb is definitely a taste from my childhood My mom made jams, crumbles, and rhubarb sauce (like apple sauce) and of course some glorious pies.

    I occasionally buy it in the store, but it does not seem to taste as good, or have the same significance, I'm not sure what your situation was, but as a child another bit of fun was watching the adults, ok the moms, try creative ways to unload the surplus portions of rhubarb on equally overburdened neighbors.

  2. It is precious! I'm looking forward to some delicious rhubarb creations, I'll be making some too very soon! Wish I had my own rhubarb growing :)

  3. My family has an heirloom rose--I think maybe originally from England and who knows how old--so I totally get it. Now that we are in "the house" I am sure my mom and I will be discussing where I should put it. It's a climbing rose though (and oh my gosh does it smell wonderful, nothing like the bland ones sold now) and so I need to find a trellis or something for it...

    This made me laugh though because when we moved into our house in Pennsylvania--that's about 5 yrs ago now--there was a big, gorgeous rhubarb plant. And my mom went crazy with jealousy. And we dug it out and killed it (insert horrified look). You see, it was too big to transplant--we tried--and the leaves are poisonous and it was smack in the middle of the lawn with our 3 dogs and 2 kids. I am not sure my mom ever forgave me--and there were times I regretted it, but we are no longer there so I would not have the darn thing anymore anyway.

    I'd like to try another--maybe it could be a functional yet ornamental bush in the front yard, i.e., away from the dogs?

  4. oysterculture - I have some great childhood memories of rhubarb. My mum always used to (and still does) stew it down with some sugar. My dad then eats it with left-over pasta and icecream. I've never understood that one...

    5 Star Foodie - I can't wait to see your rhubarb recipes, you're food always looks and sounds so appetizing!

    Laura - I knew the leaves were poisonous, but I didn't realise that they were attractive to dogs, I assumed that animals would naturally steer clear from toxic plants. Shows I shouldn't make assumptions! I'd better keep watch that the two dogs next-door don't get too enthusiastic about it!

    The smell of old-fashioned roses is absolutely divine! I'm jealous! We have a lovely old climbing rose where I work, and the scent from it is amazing. Get planting that rose ;) !

  5. I think my mom agreed with you but my vet said not to count on it which left me feeling paranoid.


I'd love to know any comments you might have.