Origin: Plymouth, New York
Improvement status: Cultivar
Seeds per packet: ~25
Germination tested 12/2020: 73%
Life cycle: Perennial
EFN INTRODUCTION. In 2018, EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman bought a beautiful farm in Chenango County, NY from a lovely couple named Ann and Peter Allport. The Allports had long ago retired to Florida, but continued coming to the farm every summer. At a certain point it became too much for them to maintain, and Nate is very pleased they decided to sell the wonderful place to him. But the Allports still own hundreds of acres surrounding the property, mainly woods and fields, but also a small house down the hill with a little garage. It contains an old overgrown garden loaded with delicious black raspberries and quite a bit of rhubarb. Nate was driving past it one day when he noticed a few huge flower spikes. After securing permission from the Allports to take a closer look, he found the biggest rhubarb plants he'd ever seen! Some stalks were nearly three feet long, and the leaves were nearly as wide and tall too. The plants are truly beastly. He harvested a few stalks — enough to make a few pies! — shared it with some friends, and all agreed that it's as delicious as it is enormous. Ann and Peter were happy to allow Nate to return to harvest the seeds, and this EFN introduction is the happy result!
One note on growing rhubarb from seed: like most other typically clonally-propagated perennial vegetables (like asparagus, seakale, etc) rhubarb seeds will not grow "true to type," meaning the seedlings will present an array of diverse forms. Back in the day, seed companies would explain the traits of the parent variety and urge customers to select for them as a way to "maintain" the variety, but in the end they really ended up creating more genetic diversity (which is why 'Victoria' rhubarb plants from nurseries don't always look the same). It's likely this variety began as a seedling a long time ago — the Allports said the patch was there when they bought the property — for it is certainly unique. Seeding rhubarb takes two or three years to get established, at which point the seedlings with the worst traits should be culled, while the best seedlings should be named and nurtured, on their way to becoming your own treasured heirlooms, able to be divided and shared with the people you love for generations to come.
GROWING TIPS: Start rhubarb indoors or direct seed after last frost. Be sure to keep well-weeded the first and second year — though after that it should be able to handle itself. Some seedlings will just never produce a plant worth saving, so these should be culled.
Photo credit: Michaeline Picaro.