Monday, January 29, 2007

Forced rhubarb

The New Statesman has given me a food column, which will appear every two weeks, alternating with the drinks column by Roger Scruton. My latest effort, on forced rhubarb, is here. What I did not write about was the issue discussed on Radio 4's The Food Programme yesterday: that warmer winters are disabling the forced rhubarb growers of Yorkshire.

You might not think that a crop brought to maturity indoors would be affected by the weather. But the plants are kept outside before being transferred to the forcing sheds; and they need cold winters. The weather over the past few years has not been helpful.

Still, there is forced rhubarb in the shops, and it is delicious. The tenderest stems do not need pre-cooking if going into a pie or crumble: just cut them into short lengths, and mix them with sugar and perhaps a little ground ginger and nutmeg. The disadvantage is that are not able to tell whether you are happy with the level of sweetness before you bake the pie. My estimate is that a tbsp of brown sugar should be about right for 500 g of rhubarb.

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