Rhubarb can be a stately plant in the edible garden, with its big shiny leaves and russet-coloured stems. It can stay in one place for about seven years, making it very easy care. Better still, it can cope with damp and shade. While occupying the less desirable parts of the garden, it produces delicious stems you can stew or bake. Try putting it on pastries, in muffins, crumbles, sorbets and pies.
Rhubarb needs rich soil, and a sprinkling of sulphate of potash, or some untanalised wood ash if you have some. Pick no more than one third of the stems each year, otherwise you could exhaust the plant. If it flowers, cut them off so the plant concentrates its energies on growing stems rather than seeds. Leave it alone in the winter. The leaves are poisonous, so make sure you don't eat them.
When you cook it, try adding ginger or orange, and don't use too much sugar, as you need to try to retain that lovely tart flavour. It's brilliant for breakfast, and rhubarb clafoutis is a wonderful dessert. For such a humble plant it's very versatile and tasty.By Janice Marriott