Monday, 25 February 2013
It's a little known fact that the area just south of Bradford - a triangle between Morley, Leeds and Wakefield - is a major rhubarb growing area, celebrated for its Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb (now awarded EC Protected Designation of Origin status like Champagne and Parma ham). For the past 170 years, rhubarb has been grown here, in long dark sheds that force early growth to produce the delicate pink, sweet stems (see top photo), which are traditionally harvested by candlelight. I love it, though it is quite expensive - about £2.50 for six stems. The tender forced stems are very different from the much tougher stuff that people grow outside in gardens and allotments.
This association has given rise to an annual Rhubarb Festival in Wakefield, a food festival where you can sample all manner of delights made from rhubarb, from cakes through pickles to alcoholic drinks - as well as lots of other choice local foods. There are cookery demonstrations, real ale, music and morris dancing. Tours of the rhubarb sheds can be arranged too. It's all good fun and a bright, colourful lift to the spirits in the middle of cold, grey February, often considered to be England's most depressing month. If the horsemeat scandal isn't enough to turn you vegetarian, maybe this colourful veg would.