Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Harvest of the cold months

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb
Rhubarb is one of the first plants to reappear on the allotment. The tightly furled leaves of young stalks appear around the end of February, pushing hopefully through their warming winter blanket of compost. They never fail to cheer me up, a taste of the soon to arrive growing season.
Every other year I force some of my rhubarb, depriving it of light so I can get an earlier (and pinker) crop. Last week I went down to the plot and dragged a chimney pot I keep solely for this purpose over part of the rather sprawling rhubarb crown, in two or three weeks I should be rewarded with some slender stalks of the palest pink. The only down side of forcing is that it exhausts the plant (how I sympathise with the rhubarb) so you can only do it every other year. The rest of the crop will appear soon after, darker and streaked with green it will be less sweet and far more abundant. I always mean to eat rhubarb with savoury things (pork or mackerel) but some how never get round to it. I did make some compote to go with a shoulder of pork cooked in milk but somehow the whole thing just felt like a giant bowl of indigestion. Perhaps its safer to stick to the sweet side. I just can't resist roasting it and eating with honey sweetened yoghourt or encasing it crumbly pastry crusted with sugar.  As soon as I have a crop I will  be making rhubarb turnovers, rhubarb and custard tart and possibly some milk puddings with a layer of rhubarb trapped underneath.

On the same day I harvested some leeks for a quiche seasoned with some random onions that I had forgotten to pick the previous autumn. I ate them with a side salad of lambs lettuce and a few rosy red chioggia beets I had similarly overlooked. Slim pickings but satisfying ones. I also dug up my calcots of which more later.

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