Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is a special kind of rhubarb that is ‘forced’ to grow during the darker winter months. Following two years out in the field where the plants are left to their own devices, the rhubarb is moved into sheds in November after the roots have been exposed to frost. The rhubarb is then kept in complete darkness and the sheds are gently heated, forcing early growth which results in very slender, sweet stalks. These stalks are picked by candlelight as exposure to strong light will halt the growth and give the rhubarb a sour taste.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is grown in the Rhubarb Triangle, an area of West Yorkshire between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell.
The Yorkshire tradition of growing early forced rhubarb began in the 19th century to provide access to fruit during the winter season. The cultivation method was developed in the early 1800s and grew in popularity until it was practiced by hundreds of small farmers across West Yorkshire. The late-19th century saw Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb transported and sold at Covent Garden in London and Paris, France. In February 2010, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb was awarded ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ status by the European Commission’s Protected Food Name scheme. Other food and drink with this award includes champagne and Wensleydale cheese.
The season for Yorkshire forced rhubarb runs from mid-January to March.
Don’t miss the Yorkshire Rhubarb Festival, held in Wakefield each February. From chef demos and mouth-watering cocktails to garden, growing and foraging activities, this three-day festival celebrates Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb in all its glory. You can also browse market stalls and enjoy live music and entertainment, making this a fantastic family day out.
You can buy Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb across the country during the first three months of the year. Support local producers and pick up yours from one of our favourite Yorkshire farm shops. Here are a few suggestions: