Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle

I was inspired to write this post after reading Peter's fantastic article on Rum Shrub at New England Folklore. I think food folklore is something that I tend to overlook, but it can be just as interesting and wonderful as anything else in folklore.

Where I grew up, and still live, rhubarb is a stable in desserts. I absolutely love a steaming rhubarb crumble covered in thick custard - it's the best thing to stave off those cold winter nights. We used to grow them in our back garden and our neighbour would jump over the fence, apparently steal them all and the next day we would have a knock at the door, only to find my neighbour presenting us with a beautiful rhubarb pie.

Here in Yorkshire we have the Rhubarb Triangle - a 9 square mile triangle between Rothwell, Morley and Wakefield that has become famous for its 'forced' rhubarb. The plant is native to Mongolia, where they thrived in the cold, dark winter months. After they were brought to England by Yorkshireman Sir Matthew Lister, the soil in the area around Leeds was found to be particularly good for growing. Forcing sheds were erected, blocking out any sunlight and leaving the rhubarb to grow in total darkness, which allowed for faster growth. They would be then picked out by candlelight, as not to hinder their progress.

Apparently, I have been told, there is a hobby in which people visit the rhubarb at night, talking along microphones, and listen to the plants 'whisper'. I thought this was hilarious, but I haven't managed to find any more information on this strange phenomenon.

Do you have any strange food folklore in your area? I'd love to hear about it.