Behind the scenes at a Yorkshire rhubarb grower

Entrepreneurial farmer Annabel Makin-Jones is stepping into her grandfather’s boots and expanding into the mysterious and unique world of Yorkshire Rhubarb working alongside growers in the famous rhubarb triangle.

Annabel's grandfather Edmund Makin grew Yorkshire rhubarb in its heyday in the 1950’s when 200 growers in the rhubarb triangle provided 90% of the world’s forced rhubarb. Today, just a handful of growers are left in Yorkshire.

So, Annabel is doing her bit to help this traditional Yorkshire crop and its growers thrive.

The future is bright for these vibrant pink spears, the renaissance of the artisan gin industry and demand for rhubarb compotes in yogurts and smoothies, have given this very Yorkshire crop a wider audience and appreciation.

The rhubarb triangle is nine-square-mile area between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. From January to March, fuchsia-pink forced rhubarb, prized for its subtle flavour, is picked by hand, by candlelight, so that the delicate stems are not turned green and hard by photosynthesis.

Rhubarb is native to Siberia and likes the cold, the rain and soil rich in nitrogen. All are found in abundance in Yorkshire! Cuttings are taken from mature plants two years earlier, then allowed to mature in fields before they are brought inside for forcing. Because the stems must be removed from the root, the work is still done by hand, a highly labour-intensive process.

Rhubarb, which was one of the only fresh foods available during wartime rationing is now enjoying a revival celebrated by top chefs and home cooks. In 2010, Yorkshire rhubarb was awarded a PDO status, granting it protected status like Parma ham or feta cheese.

'I love rhubarb,' says Annabel. 'it’s synonymous with Yorkshire and it’s tart and sour with a hint of sweetness. It’s versatile, it can pair with sweet or savoury dishes and packs a punch of vibrant flavour at a time of year when there’s very little brightness.

'I love the vivid barbie pink bright colours it produces when cooked. Rhubarb is such fantastic flavour, it works in a range of partnership products, gin, yogurt, it’s a key ingredient for my drinks brand Tame & Wild.'

Annabel’s plans are to create a brand for Yorkshire Rhubarb to compliment her successful 'Annabel’s Deliciously British' brands of berries, jams and honey and this spring, rhubarb and daffodils.

Annabel is committed to sustainable farming practices and she’s a champion of British produce. She’s adopted a zero-waste approach to the farm, ensuring every bit of the crop is used and not wasted.

'I believe Britain produces food and drink to rival any nation. But we need to adopt sustainable practices and champion seasonal crops that thrive in our climate.

We farm with nature and are committed to making sustainable decisions from everything from packaging to water usage. The way I farm will have implications for generations to come, and I am determined not to compromise their future.' she says.

Annabel took over the running of her family’s farm 16 years ago and started the strawberry enterprise after graduating from Harper Adams with a degree in Agricultural Marketing.

Her vision is to create a number of distinctive 'Deliciously British' brands from native crops on the farm steeped in quality and under pinned by sustainable farming practices.

Annabel’s Yorkshire Rhubarb is sold at all Booths stores.

Source: Great British Life