Forced Rhubarb History, Facts, and Recipes

yorkshire-rhubarb
Fresh Yorkshire Rhubarb. Elaine Lemm
  • 01 of 05

    What is Forced Rhubarb

    organic-rhubarb-plant.jpg
    Elaine Lemm

    Until the early 19th century rhubarb was only grown outdoors. The thick, green stems were harvested from their hardy crowns from late spring through early autumn.  A new process of indoor growing was discovered called forcing a process whereby rhubarb crowns are taken indoors, deprived of food and light. This kick-starts (forces) the crowns to throw out stalks. which are slender, sweeter and more tender than those that are grown outdoors. The rhubarb must be harvested by hand, as each stem must be removed intact from the root. 

  • 02 of 05

    A Brief History of Forced Rhubarb

    Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb
    What is Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb? - The History - Why Yorkshire? - The Revival of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb - Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Recipes. Photo © Oldroyds - Leeds


    The discovery of forced rhubarb was the result, of a happy accident in the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1817. In the depths of the winter, a number of rhubarb roots were accidentally covered with soil by workmen digging a trench. Weeks later when the soil was removed and peeping through were tiny, tender, pink shoots of rhubarb which were noticeably better quality with a good flavor. Soon growers around London began blanching the rhubarb with some lifting the roots from the ground, bringing them into buildings to grow the stalks. 

    Further north in Yorkshire this method of bringing the rhubarb ‘on’ was taken onto a much larger scale. in what was to became the “Rhubarb Triangle’ of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford 

  • 03 of 05

    Why is Yorkshire so Popular?

    Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb
    What is Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb? - The History - Why Yorkshire? - The Revival of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb - Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Recipes. Photo © Getty Images

    Rhubarb comes from Siberia so it obviously prefers a cold climate which Yorkshire also has.  West Yorkshire is close to the Pennine hills with their shadow creating both a frost pocket and a high level of rainfall

    Coal for heating the Rhubarb sheds was plentiful with the rich Yorkshire coalfields close by. 

    The nightly trains from Yorkshire could deliver the freshly harvested stalks to the London markets every night as much as 200 tons a day.

  • 04 of 05

    The Revival Of Forced Rhubarb

    Janet Oldroyd Hulme
    What is Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb? - The History - Why Yorkshire? - The Revival of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb - Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Recipes. Photo © Yorkshire Post

    The revival of rhubarb clearly came on the back of the revival of interest and desire for indigenous, locally grown produce. This was due to a highly-publicized, and ultimately successful campaign to protect the traditionally grown rhubarb under the European PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. 

    The Yorkshire growers, led, by among many others E H Oldroyd’s and Sons mounted a vigorous campaign to raise awareness of the uniqueness of Yorkshire rhubarb and the need to protect the name from the deluge of foreign imports imitating the forcing method. For the consumer, it means when buying Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb they can be assured it is ​the expected quality and flavor, and that it is grown in the traditional manner. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Rhubarb Recipes

    Rhubarb Crumble Recipe
    What is Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb? - The History - Why Yorkshire? - The Revival of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb - Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Recipes. Photo © RFB Photography

    Without a doubt, rhubarb is one of the most versatile foods in the hands of a cook or chef. as it can be stewed, roasted, baked or boiled. It is as happy as a comforting, stodgy pudding as it is in a sophisticated jelly. It plays nicely with fatty meats and oily fish, makes a delicious jam or partner to hot spices and exotic fruits in a chutney or relish.