Want to grow something that is drought-proof, slug-proof, bomb-proof, as well as delicious to eat, in your back garden? Look no further. Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb! Rhubarb is your thing. Definitely.
It’s grown all over Britain, and elsewhere, but we in Yorkshire have a special affinity with the beautiful stuff. The ‘Rhubarb Triangle’, between Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford and Rothwell became known from the early 19th century onward as the’forcing rhubarb’ centre of the universe: the place where rhubarb was grown (in a climate and on soil that was just right) and in sheds constructed to force its growth so it could be in the markets before Christmas. Every week-night, right up to 1966, during the three-month forcing season, a train left Ardsley station, laden with up to 200 tons of young rhubarb destined for London and elsewhere.
By the mid 19th century, rhubarb recipes were found all over Britain. Even Mrs Beeton got in on the act with her own 1861 recipe for Rhubarb Tart, using puff pastry, which is still my own particular favourite way of eating rhubarb. Serve it hot with cream. Delicious!
- Half a pound (8 oz/225 g) puff-pastry. (You can make your own puff pastry, or buy it, as I do, ready to rock ‘n roll.)
- 5 large sticks of rhubarb
- 4 oz (113g) sugar. (Mrs B. specifies the use of ‘moist sugar’, meaning unrefined or partially refined sugar. But in the absence of this, suggest you use white granulated or caster, or light brown; the latter works particularly well, I think, with rhubarb).
- Line the edges of a pie dish with the pastry
- Wash, wipe and cut the rhubarb into pieces about 1 inch long
- Pile the rhubarb high in the dish as it shrinks very much in the cooking
- Add the sugar to the rhubarb
- (optional – a small quantity of lemon juice and grated lemon peel can add to the flavour)
- Cover with the remaining pastry and seal it well. Make a small hole in the centre of the pastry to allow steam to escape.
- Bake in a moderate to hot oven (375-400F/gas 5-6, 190-200C) for 30-40 minutes. You can also beat an egg to use to glaze the pastry toward the end of the baking period.
Source: Beeton, Isabella. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861). S. O. Beeton Publishing.