Rhubarb nurtured by nature – it’s the stalk of the town!

May the Forced Rhubarb be with you

Rhubarb sculpture in Wakefield - by Mike Kirby via Wikimedia Commons

Something is stirring ‘Up North’. In West Yorkshire to be precise. In darkened sheds lit only by candlelight and it’s perfectly legal.

Forced Rhubarb is the name of the game grown in the renowned Rhubarb Triangle between Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds. Away from natural light Rhubarb becomes sweeter, more tender, more familiar pink and also much tastier than its outdoor brothers and sisters.

Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Triangle has been around since the late 19th century. Once home to hundreds of farms, production peaked during WW1 and WW2. Sadly, only a handful of producers have survived.

Rhubarb is planted outside between September and March and spends two years in situ. In late November(ish) the plant is dug up from the fields and in an exhaustive labour intensive operation moved into darkened purpose built sheds, lit only by candlelight. The result is much taller and straighter Rhubarb as it seeks the energy inducing light.

Carlton village sign celebrates its link with rhubarb - by Mike Kirby via Wikimedia commons Forced Rhubarb is available in shops and farm shops from the end of November until the end of April. It is so good that it has received protected name status.

Never ever missing a trick when money and publicity is involved – it is Yorkshire after all – the canny Tykes are celebrating this wonderful vegetable. Yes it is a veg not a fruit. Welcome to the Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink & Rhubarb 2018. Held over three days – 23-25 Feb 2018 – it is a celebration of these unique pink sticks of loveliness. Celebrity chefs, food and cooking displays, walks and trails, street theatre and many more activities all Rhubarb related. And a bonus – entry is free!

Rhubarb shed in the Rhubarb Triangle - by Steve F via Wikimedia Commons Fancy a Rhubarb Experience in a Yorkshire Rhubarb Forcing Shed? Discover what actually goes on in the dark. Be enlightened with a tour by Janet Oldroyd Hulme. £7.50 gets you a two hour tour and talk from one of the top producers in the county. The history of the veg from 2700 BC right up to the present day. Take a loved one. It’s a candlelight experience and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching it might be the start of a romantic day! Last tour of the year is Thursday 16th March. Booking is essential 0113 282 2245.

If you can’t get to the festival don’t despair. The History of Rhubarb exhibition is at Wakefield Museum until 22 June 2018.

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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