Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Rhubarb Triangle - Protected Status

Appellation Controlee (d**n, how do you get an acute accent in Blogger?)

“Huh? She’s really flipped this time.” You are thinking. “The Bermuda Triangle, yes. Everyone has heard of that – but rhubarb?”

Well it does exist within 20 miles of our home in a geographic triangle between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. Once there were hundreds of rhubarb farms, now there are twelve. We see the fields as we drive along the M62 but, what not many people realise is that the early, tastiest, sweetest rhubarb is transplanted, by hand, into long dark nursery sheds to be ‘forced’.

Workers harvest the stalks by candlelight to avoid damaging the young stems that are still growing – just as it has been done since Victorian times. Rhubarb was introduced in the 1800s from Siberia and flourished in Yorkshire’s cold and damp and, when the sheds were introduced, by-products of the woollen industry provided the fertilizer.

In the 16th Century it was imported and sold for more than the price of opium but it went out of fashion after the 2nd World War when more exotic fruits were introduced. Now it is back in fashion because it has only 7 calories per 100 grams and is a high source of calcium – what goes round, comes round.

Now, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb has been given Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union, just like Champagne. There is a BBC news item on the story, but I don’t think it is available outside the UK.  Sorry about that, but I don't think the BBC would appreciate me reproducing their news!

I sent the link to Alan via email (sad, but our studies are two floors apart) and his reply was:

'I really feel that anything involving being forced in sheds is on the dark side. This sort of thing is growing. It really leaves us in a stew. Society might crumble. Well, I suppose we might get acustard to it ........'

Sorry for the puns – that’s Alan for you!

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