The village of Carlton (6 miles south of Leeds) is generally thought of as "the hub of Yorkshire rhubarb growing" with suggestions actually having been made that it changes its name to "Rhubarb". Early each year, Wakefield hosts an annual Rhubarb Festival which draws visitors to the area from far and wide.
The plant has been an important part of the local economy for well over 150 years. Originally grown for local markets, in the early days special rhubarb trains left Wakefield every day, bound for London loaded up with tons of the reddish/pink vegetable.
Being a native plant of Siberia, is it any wonder that it thrives in the damp, cold winter conditions often found in Yorkshire? The plant has grown wild on the banks of the Volga River for centuries and has been utilised by the Chinese for medicinal use, often being dried and used as a laxative.
It is usually considered to be a vegetable, although a US court decided in 1947 that as it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as such for the purposes of regulations and duties.
It is more often than not stewed with sugar and made into rhubarb pies or desserts, but it also has its place as a savoury dish and can even be pickled.
So What is Forced Rhubarb?
|A Forcing Shed|
Forced rhubarb is considered to be more tender than its cousin grown outdoors in summer. Away from daylight, the leaves grow to a greenish yellow colour and the stalks are bright crimson with a wholly smooth texture. The harvest is generally completed by the end of March.
In February 2010, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb was awarded Protection Designation of Origin status (PDO) by the European Commission. An accreditation similar to Champagne, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Stilton Cheese and Parma Ham.