When we first arrived here at Near River, I was very keen to get some of the perennial vegetables planted as they can keep producing for many years. One of the best pieces of advice that we've been given is that for this enterprise to work you really need to grow what you love. Excellent - asparagus and rhubarb are two of my favourites, and while they can take some time to start producing, once they are settled, with the right care they'll keep giving for years. You can read about our asparagus escapades here and here, and see an earlier rhubarb story here.
We have a small range of preserves that we sell at markets, through a few key retailers in the Hastings and in Sydney, and at our online farmgate stall. Initially the idea was that we'd use excess production to provide the material for the preserve range, and that has more or less been the situation, until one of the preserves starts to sell quicker than you can grow it.
Such is the case of our delicious Rhubarb Lime + Ginger Compote.
Back in 2008, having created the first growing bed and planting a border row of lemongrass for protection, we planted our first rhubarb plants. Grown from seed in our polyhouse, it was pretty exciting nine months later to start 'pinching' some stems and using them in the kitchen for breakfasts and desserts. Not long after this, our good friend John Shelley from Red Hill at Telegraph Point offered us some excellent deep red rhubarb crowns - wild horses couldn't have kept me back. From memory, John gave us about 60 crowns, and for the last couple of years they've been providing us and our CSA customers with wonderful red rhubarb.
In the spring of 2010, we launched our Rhubarb Lime + Ginger Compote, which has gone extremely well, quickly gaining popularity here in the Hastings Valley, and farther afield thanks to our extensive network of agents (read family) and the joys of online marketing.
And then a happy dilemma - we need more plants, but we can't damage the production of our existing crop. Rhubarb is a plant that can be propogated very easily by division, indeed it's perfect for this form of reproduction as you end with identical 'offspring' from the parent plant, also ideal in our case of highly sort after red stem rhubarb. So to minimise the impact we chose to move and divide the existing crop in two sections.
The first 25 plants have been moved to the new, improved bed, giving us 125 plants - don't you like that math - and the remaining 50 plants were harvested last week, and will be moved over the coming few weeks. All up we should finish up with over 300 plants in the new bed, and that will keep us in rhubarb for a few years to come.
So with the red stems trimmed and washed, I headed into town and our chefs, Eric Robinson and Geoff at The Other Chef Fine Foods who produce all our preserves, and witnessed our fresh rhubarb, just harvested that morning, being processed, cooked and bottled. The following images say it all. Later this year, when the citrus trees reach the right age, we'll be using our limes and ginger too.
Keen to try some of this for yourself? A couple of local cafes have it on their menu - Bent on Food in Wingham and Beetroot'd in Kendall - and the following stores have it on their shelves - in Port Macquarie head to Essential Ingredients, About Food, or The Visitor Info Centre at The Glasshouse, and in Coffs Harbour Essential Ingredients have it there too. Otherwise order it online at the Near River Farm Gate or come and see us this Saturday and every second Saturday of the month at the Port Macquarie Farmers Markets in WestPort; every fourth Saturday at the Wauchope Farmers Markets at the Showground; and each third Sunday at the Laurieton Riverside Walk Markets.
Stuck for how to use it? I love it with museli or stirred through yoghurt for breakfast, dolloped on banana bread with cream, or chocolate cake with mascapone, or best of all, simply partnered with ice cream. We've heard of customers using it with pork and duck dishes too!