Minor British Institutions: Yorkshire Forced rhubarb

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The Independent Online

Not so long ago, before the kumquat and the Ugli fruit became commonplace sights in our supermarkets and kitchens, the exotic boundaries of the British fruit fancier were defined by the banana and rhubarb. Actually, rhubarb isn't really a fruit, but we'll leave that distinction to stew in its own juice (which can strip a saucepan, by the way).

In any case, the most strange and wonderful rhubarb of all has always been the Yorkshire Forced type, so-called because it is made to mature quicker than usual by growing it in huge, dark and damp sheds lit only by candlelight, the shoots fertilised with wool waste and horse muck.

Of the hundreds of growers who once thrived in the county's "Rhubarb Triangle", there are only a dozen left, but their chances of survival have been enhanced with the award of special legal protection from the EU. No sign of it being made compulsory to enjoy it with custard, the archetypal public-school pudding.