Harvesting forced rhubarb in April – Sara's Kitchen Garden
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Harvesting forced rhubarb in April

Forced rhubarb is an early luxury for me in the kitchen garden. I harvest this lovely mild rhubarb already in April.

Rabarber skördade i april 2015. Forced rhubarb, harvested in april 2015.

The first early rhubarb of the season is called forced rhubarb. The stalks are almost see-through and so mild and tender.


I grow a few things here in the garden purely for fun. It's my simple everyday luxury, just because I can. One of those vegetables is early rhubarb. I don't even need to work very hard for an entire basket full of tender rhubarb. This rhubarb looks almost see-through and it has a sweet and mild taste. It's called forced rhubarb, which means growing them in darkness with a little bit of warmth. These rhubarb stalks are so sensitive and break very easily.


More sweets from the garden: Peach tree with beautiful white fruits



I harvest everything on one plant at once. After that, I make sure to cover my now unprotected plant from both the cold and the sunlight. I start fertilizing with mulch a few weeks later, and let the plant grow a bit before I harvest again.

I have around six plants in this spot now and I harvest early rhubarb from two plants every year. That's just about enough for me. I leave the rest of the plants to grow larger as they please, but I give them some mulch too of course.


Rabarber. Forced rhubarb.

The rhubarb grows under a bucket I insulated with straw.


How to grow forced rhubarb

It's actually really easy to grow forced rhubarb. All you need are a few rhubarb plants in your garden to get started. This is how you do it:

  • pick plants that grow somewhere warm and sunny
  • put tall buckets or pots on top of the rhubarb plant
  • cover the area around the bucket with a thick layer of straw or something similar to insulate the rhubarb
  • try to avoid the impulse to look under the bucket in the next coming weeks


The plant will start to panic a bit because of the darkness and heat under the bucket. It starts to grow faster to push through the soil (which is actually the bucket) before it's too late. So it starts growing like xcrazy under the bucket to reach the light. This is what makes the rhubarb stalk so tender. Bright white under the red/pink exterior.


More about rhubarb: Cardamom sponge cake


Rabarber. Forced rhubarb.

I harvested the rhubarb, now it's time to let it grow again.


There are plenty of plants in this spot that I don't use for forced rhubarb every year. Separating my rhubarb makes it easier for me to remember which plants are for forced rhubarb and which are not.

This early rhubarb tastes best in a pie or in muffins, in my opinion. It's so mild and delicious. But the kids would rather have rhubarb sauce, so I think that's what I'm making.


More about rhubarb: Growing rhubarb from seed


Sex fina glasflaskor med rosaröd rabarbersaft står i gräset med vackert ljus som strilar mellan bladen. Forced rhubarb, six glass bottles with pink rhubarb juice.

This lovely rhubarb drink is really easy to make with fresh rhubarb straight from the garden. Photo: Maria Strömberg Bååth


If you haven't tried growing forced rhubarb before, I absolutely think you should. Good luck!
/Sara Bäckmo

03. April 2023