This weekend, a food festival in Wakefield celebrates the candle-lit world of champagne rhubarb with a snap, crackle and pop.
Each winter, a small community of farms in Yorkshire’s "Rhubarb Triangle", transfers acres of rhubarb plants by hand into long, dark nursery sheds to be "forced". They grow at an accelerated rate in the light-free hothouses, which are so completely silent you can hear the "pop" as the buds of new stalks burst open. From mid-February workers harvest armfuls of stalks by candlelight to preserve the younger stems that are still growing.
The harvested stalks are tender, sweet, and a distinctive bright pink in colour with tiny curled yellow leaves that make forced rhubarb instantly recognisable. Known as champagne rhubarb it is a seasonal delicacy and is dearer than its more fibrous and bitter outdoor equivalent.
Chefs have long championed rhubarb as a versatile ingredient that works as well with savoury dishes as it does as humble crumble filling. Its sharp-yet-sweetness makes it an ideal companion for high-fat meats such as duck and oily fish.
For more information on rhubarb walks and candlelit tours visit experiencewakefield.co.uk.