Alibi V.16 No.21 • May 24-30, 2007 

Ask Chef Boy Ari

Q: Dear Chef Boy Ari,

My German grandmother always had washing machine-sized rhubarb plants, with massive red and green stalks and leaves the size of cookie sheets. Despite adding fish emulsion, horse shit and compost, my rhubarb still remains minuscule.

I've even split up the massive root system, and all have sprouted. But all are small. What gives? How can I make Gramma proud?

—Really Small Rhubarb

A: Dear Rhubarb,

This is a nature/nurture thing. You've been doing a good job "mothering" your rhubarb. But plants, like people, come in different sizes and some rhubarb strains are big while others are small. It sounds like you've given your plants every opportunity to actualize, and they have. So now you have to decide if the love you feel for your rhubarb is unconditional, or if you want to swap your little runt for a bigger strain so that Gramma will conditionally love you, too.

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net.