Eating seasonally: Vibrant and versatile rhubarb

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Here at Mr Pickles Yorkshire Food Emporium we love watching how our food and vegetable counter changes with the seasons.

It means there’s always something new coming in, or to look forward to. Which is why we don’t ever mind saying goodbye to the sweet peas and french beans of summer, because we know we’ll soon be saying hello to autumn’s squash and parsnips .

And every month holds something new for us and our taste buds. Yes ,even February. Despite the miserable weather, we still have a wide range of fresh produce in store including celeriac, parsnips, beetroot, savoy cabbages, cauliflowers, Jerusalem artichoke and swede.

But, as a Yorkshire food shop, it’s the start of the forced rhubarb season that makes February all the more special for us.

Although native to Siberia, rhubarb thrives in the winters of West Yorkshire, and the region once produced 90 per cent of the world’s forced variety. Grown in dark sheds, forced rhubarb is far more tender than that grown outside and the difference has been recognised by the European Commission which has awarded Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb with Protected Designation of Origin status.

Our forced rhubarb is supplied by the Tomlinson family, of Pudsey. The area is known for its fertile soil and is in the rhubarb triangle; a nine-square-mile area famous for forced rhubarb. As the family still use traditional methods, and even carry out the harvest by candlelight, the stalks are soft and tender. Pale green-yellow leaves are a good indication of traditional methods, as exposure to sunlight results in thicker, darker leaves.

When it comes to eating, forced rhubarb is very versatile. Slightly sweeter than outdoor grown, it is fabulous in a crumble or pie. Why not cook some down with a little sugar and water and serve with pancakes for a twist to Pancake Day this year?

And, thanks to its gorgeous pink colour, it’s perfect for Valentine’s cocktails.Simply make a cordial by poaching stems in water, straining and re-heating with some sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, leave the cordial to chill before adding to Yorkshire fizz or gin and tonic. Forced rhubarb is also valued for its tart flavour, makingit a great accompaniment to savoury dishes like pan fried mackerel and roast pork. Just cook the rhubarb to a puree with water, butter and sugar and serve on the side.Try adding chopped stems to a lamb tagine in place of apricots or to add a little sourness to lentil curry.

For more recipe ideas, search “Mr Pickles’ Sheffield” and look at our blog.

If you like to eat seasonally, why not head to Mr Pickles’ Yorkshire Food Emporium on Abbeydale Road to see what we currently have in store?

As well as lots of great fresh produce, we have delicious meat from Firs Farm, cheese from across Yorkshire, bread and milk from Sheffield and lots of indulgent Yorkshire treats.