Tucked behind my coldframe, next to a haphazard patch of peonies (used for cutting), is my clump of rhubarb. I don’t know what variety it is, but I don’t care (although the green leaf stems narrow down the possibilities). This rhubarb came with my property, so it could be generations old. That’s enough for this orchardist to consider my plant an heirloom.
When I found the rhubarb, it was a small worn-out patch surrounded by tall overgrown saplings. So, I dug up the old spindly clump, and moved it. The method I used to transplant my heirloom rhubarb is the same method prescribed by “Dr. Bevan” in the August 4, 1832 issue of The Genesee Farmer:
“appropriate a square yard of soil to each plant - remove a cubic yard of earth - fill up the pit thus made with well rolled stable manure, treading it closely down - cover the same with a mound of earth, consisting of the soil which has been removed - and place a single offset of rhubarb in the centre of it; the crown of the offset, (which requires to have very little root attached to it,) should be two or three inches below the surface. The business should be performed very early in the year; and if severe weather supervenes, a covering of raw stable manure should be laid over the mound.”
The colonists brought rhubarb to the states, but it seems as though it wasn’t as ubiquitous as other "fruit." It arrived rather late. In his famous instructive booklet “The American Gardener” William Cobbett stated as late as 1821: “This is one of the capital articles of the garden, though I have never seen it in America”.
Rhubarb is easy. All you need to know, is that it loves to feed. It'll flourish in sun and organics. Of course it's always been that way, so Dr. Bevan’s 1832 method of planting rhubarb was not new or innovative 170 years ago, and it certainly isn't today: Dig a large hole...Fill the hole with “well rolled stable manure” (or compost)...Tuck the root in the center of the compost...and watch the rhubarb grow. Then start planning those heirloom strawberry rhubarb pies.