Blooming Rhubarb

rhubarb-plant

I love rhubarb. The plants are deliciously odd in their shape and size in the garden, glorious in colour and just sour enough to make the perfect crumble. You can force rhubarb and grow it in the dark and the leaves have enough sass oxalic acid to be poisonous. The stalks are fine for human consumption, of course.

When we moved to our home in Cambridgeshire nearly three years ago we inherited one in the garden which has quietly got on with its job rhubarbing very efficiently. I love it when we harvest some of the stalks and my husband makes a rhubarb clafoutis (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe here). I am always impressed at how quickly rhubarb leaves grow, stretching out over their territory like umbrellas, greedy to catch the light and protect the family.

rhubarb benefits
Rhubarb has many health benefits too. As this diagram indicates, the fibre eases digestion, Vitamin K helps strengthens bones, it can help stave off brain disorders, fight free radical damage, relieve constipation and diarrhoea and it even acts to inhibit inflammation (click on image for larger view). Regardless of the details, sometimes I just crave rhubarb and my body seems to understand why. Marvellous.

Now, I am not a natural gardener. I do enjoy taking plants out (if I know which ones, and for the right reasons) and putting plants in (because often that involves shopping and creativity). I have also learned a certain amount about pruning, mowing and trimming, but Latin names escape me and remembering whether something is perennial, annual, about to do something interesting or already dead can throw me. I don’t mind too much; gardening is an ongoing process and half the fun is in the surprises.

Our rhubarb surprised us this year. It flowered.

So we cut the flower off.

It flowered again.

This time we googled it, cut the flowers off and put them in a bottle, to enjoy:

IMG_3832

Why did the rhubarb flower? According to the experts, rhubarbs can flower when they are stressed. Allowing the plant to go to seed means that much of its energy is then taken up with reproduction instead of growing stalks. So the accepted wisdom is to cut off the flower and allow the plant to produce a better harvest.

Sometimes I feel a lot like a rhubarb. Somewhat leggy, crazy and colourful, with a side helping of sass acid. I do my best to seek the light, protect and be a good influence for others and serve them well. I also have my limits. When I am under the most stress, I also flower. The bitterness is replaced by an urge to create.

Maybe you know this feeling too?

I am setting myself a hefty writing target this term, and have decided that I will blog here when I can, but not to do it when I need to flower in my writing elsewhere. I will still put up the occasional 500 words, sometimes even on Fridays.

Now is the time to flower.

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