Celebrating the traditional links with Rhubarb growing in Wakefield, the Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb is a major event on the food calendar, while offering the tastiest regional and finest produce and showcasing the most talented chefs.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is now in the same category as Champagne and Parma Ham, joining the ranks of Europe’s protected foods. The Rhubarb growing triangle consists of Leeds, Morely and Wakefield with the plant being an important part in the local economy for more than 150 years.
Although the heyday of trains leaving every day full of rhubarb for London may be over, rhubarb is still flourishing and in Wakeflield, with the introduction of the Rhubarb Festival, marks it importance.
Used since ancient times for medicinal purpose most times dried to be uses as a laxative, Rhubarb originates from the Russia-China border and in the 1760s was first grown in the country at Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens for scientific purposes and it is still unknown as to when the plant was first cultivated in the Wakefield area.
However by the 1840’s local market gardeners harvested rhubarb as a fruit for use in pies and jams and for stewing this after first appearing as an ornamental medicinal plant.
Indoor growing, under warm and dark conditions, was first discovered in the 1820s even though it was on taken up on a large level until the late 1800s and the sheds, an eerie place by candlelight, used to grow the plant are rapidly disappearing along the landscape.
The conditions, such as suitable soil, rainfall, cheap fuel to heat the sheds, supplies of soot and ash to help the soil all played a part to cultivate rhubarb on a large scale and why it flourished in this part of the country