Custard or manure?
I put manure on mine!
The rhubarb plants here were suffering when I arrived. They are planted in heavy soil, which suits them well enough but the soil is a bit waterlogged in winter which can be a bit of a problem and the soil had not been improved for years. Rhubarb is a hungry plant and likes rich soil so I have been giving the plants lots of manure since I have been here. When I was growing up spring always saw people putting upturned metal dustbins over the clumps and surrounding them with manure. The dark this produced encouraged long, tender stems, enhanced by the heat from the manure which ensured a slightly early crop. Before the advent of cheap imported fruit this early crop was much valued.
I do not go to such extremes but, over winter the bed has been covered with strawy manure, with lots of ‘horse lumps’ in it. This is not to protect the crowns from cold – rhubarb is completely hardy – but it does keep light off the crowns and as the stems (really leaf petioles) push up against the mat of straw it does blanch the stems to some extent.
The stalks push up the straw and when it is pulled away the tender stalks are exposed.
These first stems are a real treat and as the plants push through they grow perfectly and will soon cover the straw. The straw will mulch the soil and keep in moisture in dry periods.
And, of course, once the stems are pulled and cooked my preferred option is custard.