The year we are delighted to offer premium-grade forced rhubarb direct from the dark sheds in the Rhubarb Triangle, an area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford in Yorkshire. The cold, wet weather and rich soil help the “crowns” to lay down energy before the forcing period. This is a wonderful fresh delicacy so early in the year.
A few years ago, Yorkshire rhubarb was awarded PDO (protected designation of origin) status.
After the two or three years needed for the crowns to develop, they are transferred to dark forcing sheds, where the pale pink shoots grow rapidly in their search for light. They grow several inches a day and if you are fortunate enough to visit the sheds you will find it an unfogettable experience. You can even hear them growing. The tender stems are harvested by hand, in candlelight, so as not to allow even a hint of photosynthesis to take place.
Watch a film all about it:
The forced rhubarb costs 90p per 100g (£4.50 for 500g). It freezes well.
Forced rhubarb is gorgeous simply poached or oven baked.
Oven-baked forced rhubarb
Oven-baking is a good way to cook forced rhubarb, because the pretty stalks remain intact. Forced rhubarb releases quite a bit of liquid – don’t discard it, the juice is just as delicious as the rhubarb!
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4.
- Cut the rhubarb into 5cm chunks and carefully mix it with sugar in a large bowl. Place it in a large ovenproof glass or ceramic dish (no metal, as this will react with the acid in the rhubarb). Cover it with a large piece of parchment (no aluminium foil, as this will also react with the rhubarb) and secure it with kitchen string.
- Cook for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, then remove the parchment and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge.
Excellent with Slack House Farm Natural Organic Yogurt, Crème Fraîche, or Rodda’s Clotted Cream and a drizzle of honey, all available from Alston Wholefoods.
Here are some more ideas.
Rhubarb and stem ginger crème brûlée
Delicate forced rhubarb holds its own in this dish of crème brûlée speckled with stem ginger and topped with rhubarb crisps.
Rhubarb and vanilla clafoutis
A nice twist on the French classic, add shocking pink stalks of rhubarb to jazz up this tender pudding-cake.
Rhubarb and rosewater compote with shortbread
Rosewater brings out the slightly floral quality of new season forced rhubarb, but if it isn’t your thing, use orange flower water or a few drops of vanilla extract instead. The compote is delicious as it is, or with a little thick plain yoghurt or lightly whipped cream, but it’s very good with fresh shortbread.
For a British seasonal twist on the classic peach bellini, stew rhubarb with a little sugar, then serve topped up with Prosecco. Refreshing with a delicious tang.