January is a difficult month if you're looking for something new and interesting around the supermarket. It is not traditionally a time of year for new lines to arrive on the shelves and nor is it a time when food manufacturers are running promotions. As usual the start of January sees the arrival, almost instantly Christmas and the New Year has passed, of the obligatory Hot Cross Buns and the Cadbury's creme eggs making one forget that winter has long way to go before Easter arrives.
There is one great crop that arrives on the supermarket shelves in January and that is forced rhubarb. There is nothing nicer than likely stewed rhubarb, with its beautiful pink colours, search with a dollop of clotted cream or some nice thick double cream. One of the simplest and most enjoyable deserts in the UK culinary calendar.
Did you know:
- Earliest recorded use of rhubarb is 2700 BC
- Early use of rhubrab was as a very important drug of the time for gut, lung and liver ailments
- Rhubarb was originally known as as the Rhacoma root
- Rhubarb was brought to Europe in the 13th century by Marco Polo
- The drug from Rhacoma root (rhubarb) was so expensive in mid-17th century England that it cost three times the price of opium
- Rhubarb was first used in English cooking in the late 18th century
- The forcing of rhubarb first began in Yorkshire in 1877
- Rhubarb leaves are toxic
- Rhubarb is considered to be a vegetable
- Rhubarb is a native of Siberia
- Rhubarb is a laxative . . . so don't be too greedy!
The rhubarb we buy these days in UK supermarkets starts arriving in early January and comes from what is known as the Rhubarb Triangle. The Rhubarb Triangle is a small area in West Yorkshire approximately 9 square miles in size, located between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell hence the Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink & Rhubarb (details of which you will find below under the Food Calendar).
The rhubarb growing industry was considerably larger before World War II and has contracted considerably since then as rhubarb became unfashionable and with the advent of overseas fruit being brought into the country in chilled containers.
These days rhubarb is again gaining in popularity but still something that a lot of people no longer eat. If you have never tried rhubarb you really don't know what you are missing and it is so easy to prepare as the packs on the supermarket shelves are already cleaned and trimmed. All you need to do is chop it up, put it in a pan, add two or three tablespoons of sugar and a splash of water then simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes and it is done!
for further information on rhubarb grown in Yorkshire's rhubarb triangle have a look at the website of E Oldroyd and Sons who have been growing rhubarb for several generations - www.yorkshirerhubarb.co.uk
Editorial note: This site is not paid to promote rhubarb and nor is it an expert on health matters.
from Around the Supermarket (February 2011)
There is always something happening in supermarkets - new products, product demonstrations, shelves reorganised so you can't find anything. Not always interesting, quite often boring and sometimes a chore but just occasionally something catches your eye, something is interesting . . .