It’s that time of year again when the vibrant bright pink of early rhubarb shines like a spring jewel among the estate farm shop fruit selection.
In late winter and early spring, this is the only fresh home-grown fruit available. However, strictly speaking rhubarb is not a fruit, but the sweetish stalk of the rhubarb vegetable plant. Early rhubarb is forced into growth in gently heated, completely dark sheds. It has long, thin, bright red and pink stems, with pale yellow leaves. It’s not altogether exciting to look at, but oh boy make the most of its fresh spring flavour and turn it into a glorious crumble, tart or fool.
It was the Romans who discovered the joy of forcing rhubarb and they were responsible for the British commercial rhubarb industry being historically focused around a small area of West Yorkshire known as the ‘Wakefield Triangle’, whose other two corners are to the south and west of Leeds. So important was the rhubarb industry that up to the middle of the last century, regular ‘rhubarb express’ trains carried thousands of tonnes of the stuff down to the markets in the south. Today the industry is much smaller, the prominence of UK commercial growing having been squeezed due to the pressure from imported fruit, mainly from Holland.
Grown-up Rhubarb Fool – Serves 4
400g Pink rhubarb – cut into 2-3cm pieces
150g Caster sugar
250ml Double cream
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
2tbs Elderflower gin
- Place the rhubarb into a thick bottomed saucepan and mix with the sugar, orange zest and juice.
- Cook very gently over a low heat until the rhubarb is soft and the syrup has been liberated.
- Strain through a sieve and leave to drain for 15 minutes. Reserve the syrup (there should be approximately 300ml). Mash the rhubarb with a fork and set both aside to cool completely.
- Pour 50ml of the syrup into each of your chosen serving glasses (tumblers or wine glasses).
- Whip the cream and gin to a soft peak and fold in the cooled rhubarb and remaining syrup.
- Spoon into the glasses and chill.
All of the ingredients listed above are available in the estate farm shop.
Estate farm shop