Monday, April 27, 2009

Strange Fruit

Okay then, what kind of flower is this? (Stick with me, I promise it'll get more interesting).

I bet hardly anyone would recognise it from this photo - - but if I pull back a bit - -

Rhubarb. This particular clump of it is growing in my mother's garden. Rhubarb's really not best known for its flowers.

I'm a bit obsessed by rhubarb, I admit it (yes, I know I promised that this post would get more interesting. It's possible that I lied to you.)

In West Yorkshire a lot of rhubarb is grown in what's known as the Rhubarb Triangle, between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. It's not a glamorous part of the country, but it's ideal for rhubarb, which came from Siberia originally. So to the rhubarb, West Yorkshire is like a holiday in the tropics, and it loves living here.

They grow it in what are known as forcing sheds. The rhubarb is kept in the dark, which means it spends all its time sending up long, edible stems looking for the light, and it doesn't waste its time putting its energy into growing leaves. It's probably only a matter of time until someone decides this is cruel and sets up PETR - - People for the Ethical Treatment of Rhubarb .

In the dark, silent sheds the rhubarb is picked by candlelight and this always seems both spooky and romantic to me.

In our garden, the rhubarb undergoes no such unnatural conditions. It just grows, wild and free. Huge, if it rains a lot. The leaves are poisonous but when I was a child and picked rhubarb I used the leaves as a roofing material for dens.

I love it. I love it raw, I love it stewed (with artificial sweetener, as it's quite tart and I can't have sugar). It's very easy to cook. Chop up rhubarb. Add sugar or sweetener. Don't add water. Put in a bowl in the microwave. Seven minutes or so - - done! I love rhubarb and custard. Rhubarb pie. Rhubarb crumble. Yum. The rhubarb grows every year and the rhubarb we eat now is from descendants of the rhubarb that we planted in the garden in the late 1950s.

It's high in fibre and good for you. Hurrah for rhubarb.

I promise not to write about it again for a while.


Anonymous gingerfield said...

There are folks who travel from far and wide in order to stand in those dark sheds and commune with the rhubarb you know, well, people that I know anyway; they tell me they only listen to the plants and not talk to then but the relationship between we North Riding folk and the groovy red stuff has always been an ambilvalent one, what with the first rhubarb related ASBO being served here, the day trips to sit in the dark with acres of the stuff without even smuggling in custard and everything...

7:52 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

Oh I love rhubarb! Haven't had it in ages though, unfort.

10:47 pm  
Blogger Kim said...

I LOVE Rhubarb too, when I had my own flat, I actually had a Garden (the garden was bigger than my flat) and I grew Rhubarb in the garden :D

11:25 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Are you aware the People for the Ethical Treatment of Rhubarb (PETR) have a website? Yes, indeed, and it's called People for the Ethical Treatment of Rhubarb On-Line (PETROL). Sub-cultures have sprung up also, such as Gays Against Stewing (GAS) and Overachievers Into Legumes (OIL) and Today's Youth for Rhubarb-Enhanced Suppers (TYRES).

11:27 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

What a load of rhubarb!

12:00 am  
Blogger Debby said...

Yum! Strawberry rhubarb pie. I love custard with rhubarb....American custard, not British custard. Nothing against British custard you understand. I don't belong to AABC or anything!

2:33 am  
Blogger Dizzy said...

American custard???

10:05 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

I'm glad there are more rhubarb-lovers out there. We stand proud and tall and we are not ashamed. (What IS American custard, Debby?)

8:27 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I love rhubarb.

And I know American custard.

American custard is a dessert made with eggs (or egg whites, maybe) and sugar and a few other things, very creamy and very light and very good. Great in a pie crust with cinnamon and nutmeg on top. Or just in a baking cup without a crust.

But what is British custard then? Some kind of vegetable?

10:11 pm  

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