Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb

Bang in season and an absolute must eat!

With just 12 growers in a small triangle of just 9 square miles between Bradford, Leeds & Wakefield in West Yorkshire, a county in northern England, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb truly is the Champagne of rhubarb. This is the Rhubarb Triangle.

Brought to Europe by Marco Polo, rhubarb is a curious vegetable. With poisonous leaves, but a beautiful pink stalk, or stick, which has a tart, but appealing flavour, crunchy when raw, soft and sticky when cooked.

Forced rhubarb is a practice of forcing the growth by growing the rhubarb indoors, in darkness in the warmth. The rhubarb is cultivated for a couple of years outside, then moved into large sheds where the darkness prevents the development of woody stalks. Soft, vibrant thin sticks are then harvested by candlelight. You just can't make something like this up!

In 2010, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb was awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Commission’s Protected Food Name scheme.

How to prepare these delicious stalks ...

Chop off the ends, paying attention to the top of the stick where the leaves grow off - trim back to where the vibrant pink colour starts.

You could simply eat the stick as is, perhaps dipped in a little honey - this was a traditional post-World War II sweet for poorer families.

There is an important note here about honey. Is it primal? Would something like agave nectar be better?

Well, I'll link to a few resources and you can make your own mind up:

... and so:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-honey-a-safer-sweetener/ ... I tend to think so.

You could chop down into short stalks and arrange in a box of puff pastry ... but that's not paleo. What is, is to simply chop the sticks right down and gently cook down.

Chop, put into a pan and set the heat on low; as low as you can. The rhubarb will now sweat in the heat, releasing its own juices and softening the fibrous stalk.

Rhubarb is very tart, but forced rhubarb has a much sweeter taste - it can still do with a little help, so given that these sticks came from within a 10 mile radius of my house, it seemed right to pair it with a little local honey from a farm just over the hill behind us. I used a mere half teaspoon, which is perfectly adequate - that tartness is part of the appeal.

After an hour, or so, or low temperature cooking you will have a vibrant, soft, inviting pink mess.

What now?

Rhubarb is a vegetable, so feel free to serve it with savoury dishes. Use as condiment alongside oily fish, like mackerel, bold flavoured fish like bass or tilapia, or heavy, fatty meat like lamb.

Perfect offset against the fattiness.

Rhubarb also works out well as a dessert. Served simply, with yoghurt, done posh in a wine glass with layers of yoghurt and cream or put under a crumble topping, the options are endless.

Perfect soft tartness against the crunchy nut topping or cool yoghurt.

Me? I served a helping alongside a simple Panna Cotta.