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Café team explore Yorkshire's infamous rhubarb sheds ahead of the Rhubarb Festival

25 Jan 2023

Robert Tomlinson is a fourth-generation rhubarb grower based in Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Earlier this week, our café team - led by Catering Manager, Carl Fleischer - visited Robert’s farm to find out what it takes to grow Yorkshire’s most popular vegetable.

Robert’s family have been growing forced rhubarb on their farm for the past 140 years. The farm is located within the nine square mile area known as ‘The Rhubarb Triangle’, a region of Yorkshire that stretches between Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford, nestled in the shadows of the Pennines.

Yorkshire is perfect for growing rhubarb due to its water-retentive and nitrogen-rich soils. The Pennines also contribute to the perfect conditions necessary for forced rhubarb production, being cold, damp and a ‘frost pocket’.

The two varieties that are grown on Tomlinson’s farm are Harbinger and Arrow, which produce excellent quality, tender, pink stalks which are perfect for forcing. The rhubarb crowns spend two years outdoors before being planted inside specially designed forcing sheds in December. These sheds trick the rhubarb into thinking that it is spring by raising the temperature and forcing them to start growing. They are also kept dark, lit only by candlelight to deter photosynthesis which causes the stalks to be tougher and more acidic. The stalks are formed as they grow upwards in search of the light.

The forced rhubarb season runs between January and March and even though the farm is run only by Robert and his wife, they will still be picking a massive 50-60 tons this year, supplying establishments all around Yorkshire, as well as London, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and even New York.

The Hepworth Wakefield café team have been cooking up a storm with Tomlinson’s rhubarb, perfecting recipes such as rhubarb ketchup, reduced rhubarb, apple and pork glaze and rhubarb poached in blood orange.