Rhubarb Triangle, West Yorkshire
While rhubarb is grown throughout Britain, its spiritual home in these islands is the Rhubarb Triangle in Yorkshire, with Wakefield its best-known corner, and Morley and Rothwell the others.
In the triangle rhubarb is forced, grown in huge sheds in the warm dark to produce an earlier, more tender and sweeter crop than the somewhat coarser outdoors-grown types. When the season is at its height you can hear the stuff growing so rapid is its push to maturity.
Originally a Siberian plant rhubarb was prized in medieval times for its medicinal qualities, doubtless including aphrodisiac properties – anything either stick-like or round in the fruit and veg world has at some time been the sure cure for low libido. It does indeed have some healthy aspects, including one seemingly close to the heart of all post-war British mothers, its laxative effect.
Today rhubarb is more sought after for its culinary benefits: the sharp taste that can when used well make the perfect sweet-sour crumble or pie; and provide the base for a sauce to accompany fatty game-birds. And it has risen lately in our esteem as a so-called superfood, low in calories, high in mineral content and fibre – and a lot cheaper than certain imported berries claiming the same honour.