A variety of rhubarb cultivated using the curious method of keeping the plants in darkness and harvesting the stalks by candlelight has been given European protected name status, providing an incentive to the small group of farmers who grow it and ensuring it will be clearly distinguished on the marketplace.
Yorkshire forced rhubarb joins Champagne, Parma ham, Roquefort cheese and Kalamata olives in the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin classification, a program that aims to protect regional and traditional foods throughout Europe. The classification means that the name may only be used by growers in the West Yorkshire triangle between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, known as the “Rhubarb Triangle”. Producers will be audited, ensuring traditional production methods are maintained.
Rhubarb was first grown in the area in the 19th century and at one point was cultivated by more than 200 growers. More recently, the industry struggled against competition from foreign fruit and from lack of distinction from the standard variety grown outdoors. Today, Yorkshire forced rhubarb is grown by only 12 farmers who still use the labor-intensive and demanding traditional methods to produce a sweet and tender variety.
“To the 12 growers left in the Rhubarb Triangle, a future is now certain,” said Janet Oldroyd of the Yorkshire Rhubarb Growers Association. “To the hundreds of farmers long-since gone this is, in part, recognition of their hard work, dedication and steadfast belief in their product that has kept this industry alive since the early 1950s.”
“We chose the rhubarb because of its heritage and the traditional methods still used – patience and persistence,” said Jonathan Knight, chief executive of the Yorkshire and Humberside regional food group. “A lot of effort on all parts has culminated in a fantastic result which will help confirm the unique Yorkshire rhubarb triangle as the home of forced rhubarb.”
The Yorkshire forced rhubarb becomes the 41st British product to be added to the EU’s list of protected foods, joining Grimsby Smoked Fish, Swaledale Cheese and West Country Cheddar as well as more famous specialties such as Stilton and Cornish clotted cream.
Source: The Guardian