The forced is with us

David Ov­erend re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Gardens -

sheds, a few of which can still be seen in fields along­side the M1.

The plants spend two years out in the open, ab­sorb­ing sun­shine and stor­ing en­ergy. Then they go into the sheds where the dark and warmth “forces” them to grow longer, sweeter stalks, rather than pro­duc­ing leaves to ab­sorb sun­light.

And Jan­uary is, tra­di­tion­ally, the month to get forc­ing in earnest; not on the com­mer­cial scale, but in your own garden.

Forc­ing – cov­er­ing de­vel­op­ing shoots with a large bucket, a black poly­thene sack or an ex­pen­sive but very at­trac­tive, pur­pose-made ter­ra­cotta jar – will en­cour­age them to grow quickly. So fast, in fact, that you could be en­joy­ing the fruits of your labours as early as next month and con­tinue to tuck in to pies and crum­bles un­til the start of May. Af­ter that, the shoots tend to get a bit stringy and tough, so com­post them.

Given an an­nual dress­ing of ma­nure, a crown (ma­ture root) of rhubarb should last up to a decade be­fore it needs re­plac­ing, although some ama­teur grow­ers are still har­vest­ing from crowns planted way back in the mists of time when just about ev­ery small garden had at least one patch of rhubarb.

Wake­field Coun­cil holds an an­nual Rhubarb Fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary, cel­e­brat­ing the area’s links and pro­mot­ing the sur­viv­ing rhubarb in­dus­try.

TEN­DER SHOOTS: Forc­ing rhubarb in Jan­uary means gar­den­ers could be en­joy­ing the fruits of their labours by next month.

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