Last legs for the rhubarb

Bolting rhubarb is not a good sign. The twenty year-old rhubarb patch in my neighbour’s allotment is showing all the evidence of being old and tired. Flower-heads are produced when a plant feels its life is threatened – a lack of water or nearing the end of its productive life are the most common reasons. But this is not a time to be down-hearted.

Flowers mean seeds. Free seeds and thousands of them. Plus bolting plants will give you a jaw-dropping flower show. Last year my humble Musselburgh leeks produced a globe of pink flowers atop a chest-height stem. And a very tasteless experimental cos lettuce that I just couldn’t be bothered to pick, spread corkscrew stems and bright-blue flowers all over the vegetable bed.

So if you see your rhubarb, lettuce, leeks or spinach bolting, my advice is don’t rip them up.