12 Jun 2018

Four rhubarbs and a recipe for homemade rhubarb gin

~ Homemade pink gin ... perfect for summer! ~

~ Glaskin's Perpetual in July 2013 - its second year of growth ~
Well, I've done it. The Glaskins' Perpetual rhubarb is perpetual no more.  You may wonder why as I nurtured it from a seed but there were various reasons why it had to go and now the deed is done. The whole thing has been dug up and composted. 

~ If you dig up rhubarb, be warned, it's ugly work. ~

There's no denying that rhubarb is a lovely plant to have in a food garden because new leaves can be the first signs of a new season of growth.  But while gardeners showed first stems of forced pink rhubarb and, later, tender new red stems, my rhubarb would remain resolutely green with an occasional angry rash of red at the base. Not delightful.  And certainly not attractive when cooked.  No, for that you need red rhubarb.

A few years ago, I cast my eyes longingly at the forced pink rhubarb at the local greengrocers and lusted after a red stemmed variety of my own. Two Red Champagne crowns were duly planted in the fruit tree border but have never done well, to the point of sending up distress flares by way of flower stems.  Right plant, wrong place.

So I then had three rhubarb plants, none of which came close to realising the dream. I even tried forcing the Glaskin's Perpetual this spring but it just sulked; to be fair, it was a bit snowy at the time.

~ New rhubarb on the block; Siruparber Canada Red ~

And then along came a fourth rhubarb, 'Siruparber Canada Red®'. I'd spoken to plant breeder, Lubera, at the Garden Press Event in February who agreed to end my rhubarb woes and sent me a Siruparber in a pot, which I quickly planted into the garden - a sunny spot with room to grow and plenty of muck dug into the hole first. And a bonus layer of wool pellets to protect against hungry slugs.

I have high hopes that this rhubarb is the dream - stems that are red from inside to out, mild tasting, never fibrous, doesn't need peeling (who has time for that anyway?), appears in March and can be harvested until late June. Three months of glorious deep pink rhubarb for compotes, crumbles, pies, cakes, jam, syrup (hence the name) and ... gin!  But I'll have to wait at least a year before picking to give the plant a chance to get settled.

My imagination was recently fired by a recipe online for quick, no-wait, rhubarb and strawberry gin; then, while clearing the allotment plot last week, I pulled weeds and bindweed from the end bed and discovered rhubarb plants flourishing underneath. A handful of the reddest stems came home with me and I treated myself to a few Siruparber stems for colour (even though it's not advisable to harvest in the first year of planting), plus a handful of strawberries from the garden. A short while later, after some simmering and straining, I had a bottle of sensationally pink gin, a jug of deep pink syrup and a bowl of delicious pink compote. The results exceeded expectations but, traditionally, rhubarb and sugar are steeped in gin for several days before straining; I can't help wondering which method is best. Maybe the flavour will be slightly stronger? Certainly the colour of mine can't be bettered but I'm curious to find out.

~ Click on the picture to see it larger ~

By the way ...
The longest day is just 9 days away! on the 21st June and tradition says to stop pulling rhubarb after that. (Unless you grow Glaskin's Perpetual in which case harvest away until autumn.) I guess that's to do with the oxalic acid migrating back down the stem and increasing the chances of tummy ache. It's quite unsettling to know that the days will slowly be getting shorter again; it's a good reminder to seize the day and appreciate our gardens and plots.

I want to thank Lubera for gifting me the Siruparber plant; as usual all opinions are my own and I wouldn't endorse something I didn't believe in.  The trial will continue next year by which time the plant will be well established and should grow a lot bigger. More updates then.
Also ...
I notice that Lubera are selling their rhubarb plants at half price at the moment and free of shipping costs. Just saying.


  1. We have Giant Crimson Grooveless which is red stemmed as the name suggests. Funnily enough rhubarb are the one plant that the slugs don’t touch in our garden. We recently dug a clump and left the pieces on top of the soil and even they are growing in spite of no moisture for weeks.

    1. I hope slugs and snails don't like the new rhubarb here - they were very attracted to the old one. I hadn't realised there were so many varieties of rhubarb until I saw the trail field at RHS Wisley - even then I don't think they were growing them all. Yours sounds ideal but would be too big for my tiny plot!

  2. Siruparber sounds like the ideal rhubarb! Ours (I can't remember which cultivar, annoyingly) will force well but then sends out distress flares (flowers) and I'm not sure why. It's in a sunny spot and we mulch it well. I suppose it could still be hungry. And the slugs and snails shred the leaves... Perhaps I should throw in the towel, dig it up and plant a nice new one somewhere else. The colour of your gin is beautiful and I'm sure it tastes amazing!

    1. Even my Glaskin's sent up flower spikes this year, Sam - first time in 6 years! It may be that the crown was too congested; I'd never divided it and there were several bits to it when I dug up the roots. Forcing rhubarb weakens it so maybe it's too much for the plant, hence the distress flares? Slugs and snails loved munching on the Glaskin's as well but the new plant seems less prone - long may it last!! The gin is very tasty, thanks! and v pleased with the colour!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with your decision, your new rhubarb sound fantastic and is yielding already, you can't argue with that!!! Oh...sighs...THAT GIN!!!! Way to go!!!xxx

    1. I dithered for a while, Dina, but once the new rhubarb was in place that was curtains for the old one. Pink is such a glorious colour for summer, eh? xx

  4. Mmmmm - that looks most appealing Caro :) The colour is so attractive. Saw a photo recently of elderflower cordial made from sambucus 'Black Lace', such a pretty pink drink. We made raspberry gin ('Polka' from allotment) and damson gin (fruit from trees on caravan site) last year. Both most delicious. Hope that your new rhubarb plant does all that you want it to.

  5. The colour of your gin is incredible! It's hard to let go of one of our garden "children" but it has to be done sometimes. I have a patch of perennial onions that I'm going to dig up this summer - I grew them from seed as well and they've been in the garden for several years, but I have a feeling they are contributing to my leek moth issues, so they are being evicted.


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