There’s nothing that gets me quite in the spirit of spring as rhubarb does.
This week, it almost felt like we could finally start hoping for warmer days. The warming sunshine and blue skies called for rhubarb in celebration. Yorkshire rhubarb; one of Yorkshire’s finest produce and my foodie crush of the week.
Traders at the Shambles Market hold stall through the year, bringing to the city centre a wealth of produce ranging in hues from deep and bright greens to Spanish oranges and apple-strawberry reds as well as the somewhat blander, delicate cream of our beloved British potatoes, turnips and pinkish swedes.
Come February time, the bright and neon pink of the Yorkshire Rhubarb joins in with the rest. It’s a beautiful sight. People travel from all over the country to photograph the jewel of the market. (ok. Maybe I exaggerate… But just a bit!)
So, what’s so special about it?
“Love, this rhubarb’s from Wakefield.” tells me Jean in a way I know means I should not argue.
Wakefield is part of the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle, you see? Since the early 1800s, the triangle formed between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield has been known to produce stonkingly good rhubarb and in 2010 was granted PDO (protected Designation of origin) by the European commission.
Rhubarb plants are left for 2 years to build up flavour in open fields and at the mercy of Yorkshire’s merciless climate. Then, after the first frosts, the plants are brought into the forcing shed where they grow on in the dark. This forcing process is actually the one responsible for the especially tender sweet + sour profile of the stalks harvested in this first quarter of the year.
Jean hands me the rhubarb stalks. She and John previously held shop as greengrocers on Blake Street, now home to the wonderful Mannion & Co. Run by their son in law, the café is one of the best in the city and at the weekend, a long queue files out the door as foodies wait for a table.
But Jean is at home in the market now and a warm smile of hers sends me on my way, rhubarb and all, dreaming up the wondrous cakes and pastries that would fill the weekend’s table.
Ideas on what to make? Let me know in the comments!
If curious about Yorkshire Rhubarb Fudge, join us on the Hidden Gems Food Crawl of York. It IS delicious, I promise.