In medieval Europe, rhubarb was a rare luxury. In fact, being several times the price of other valuable herbs and spices such as cinnamon, opium, and saffron, only the very rich could afford to indulge in its unique, tart flavour.

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Today things have changed and the rhubarb has fallen out of favour. To make matters worse, shop bought rhubarb stalks are generally undersized, poorly flavoured and limp-looking. Of course this is not the rhubarb plants fault, because (as anyone who has eaten freshly grown and cooked rhubarb would know) rhubarb is genuinely a king amongst temperate fruit. I do realise that rhubarb is not a botanical fruit.

While rhubarb is usually sold as pot-grown stock in the spring, there is nothing stopping you from growing your own plants from seed. Of course the various rhubarb cultivars will not grow true to the parent plants, but there are a small number of specialist varieties which will. The most popular being Rhubarb 'Glaskins Perpetual'.

Prepare the soil in advance over the autumn or winter by digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Remove all weeds, especially perennial weeds.

Using a large modular seed tray, or 3 inch pots, fill with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting'. Sow rhubarb seeds individually at a rate of one seed per pot, or module, at a depth of ¼ inch anytime from March to April. Gently water in the place the tray or pots inside a heated a propagator at a temperature of between 20-25 degrees Celsius. Alternatively seal inside a clear polythene bag and leave on a warm bright windowsill. Germination will usually take between 21- 40 days. Keep the soil damp but avoid waterlogging.

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Once the seedlings have emerged, remove them from the propagator or bag. Leave them where they are a week or so before moving them outside to a cold frame. Once the root systems have established they can be hardened off before planting out in late spring. If late frosts are forecasted, wait until these have passed before planting. Transplant rhubarb carefully, disturb the roots as little as possible, allowing 3ft between each plant.

Allow to grow for its first full year without harvesting so as to to allow the plant to properly established. Come the following spring, remove the emerging flower heads as they appear as these will divert energy away from producing further leaves

Harvest from the second year onwards removing stems from April to June.

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