The old rhubarb patch 2.2011 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.

New rhubarb bed - row 3 + 4 planted 2.2011 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.

Rhubarb trimmed 3.3.11
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.

Rhubarb prep + cook 3 Rhubarb prep + cook 4
Rhubarb prep + cook 2 Rhubarb comp. Prod pg image 220px

Add the rhubarb to the pot …mix well …simmer at 90 deg for 10 mins …and presto!

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!

  1. Coconut flour is simple dried, uetenesenwd coconut ground until it is flour consistency. It may be possible to make your own in a coffee grinder. I’m not sure, I haven’t tried. The thing about it is that it’s very drying it SUCKS up moisture like you wouldn’t believe. So, you could sub more almond meal + just some shredded coconut if you want the coconut flavor. But, you will have to adjust proportions quite a bit. I’d try a cup of almond meal and see if that gets you something workable. Maybe start with 3/4 cup and add the last 1/4 cup a bit at a time. I’m not positive it would work, but it’s worth a shot.

  2. Hi Fi. Thanks for your comment, and I think you are right; I don’t think Nana did use Sultana Bran in her recipe, but this the recipe she gave me about 3 years before she died. We’ve used it and it works. Open to other suggestions though.

    • It seems that blueberries like acdiic soil, so you’re right, hard tap water won’t do at all. A water butt sounds like a good idea, if you’ve got somewhere to put such a thing.By the way, I don’t think you mean lime, which is calcium hydroxide, and pretty nasty. I think you mean the stuff that makes water hard, which is calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, usually getting into the water from chalk or limestone (the source of confusion, methinks!). Ok, enough of the chemistry lesson before I bore you to death!Some advice instead: make sure you cover your blueberries with netting (on supports surrounding the bush) because the birds love them as well, apparently.

Near River Produce - Real food direct from our farm located on the NSW Mid North Coast