Harvesting rhubarb by candle light for extra sweetness.
Jonathan Westwood’s great-great-uncle started the tradition of harvesting winter-forced rhubarb in the north of England in 1870.
Now Jonathan is the latest in his family to grow rhubarb in a nine square mile area known as Yorkshire’s ‘Rhubarb Triangle’.
He took over the reigns of the business from his father 15 years ago and lovingly picks the vegetables by hand, in candlelight, after a unique growing process.
The rhubarb is left in fields for two years without being harvested, keeping all the sugars within the root. The farmer then moves the crop into pitch-black sheds which then naturally forces all of the energy of the plant into the colourful stalk, thereby ensuring a much sweeter taste than usual.
To ensure they’re unable to photosynthesize, the rhubarb then gets picked using the very lowest lighting conditions - by candlelight, with the doors closed.
Few farms continue to grow rhubarb is this traditional way, but the method is highly prized by epicureans, with over 300 tonnes of the rhubarb being sent to high-end grocery stores and restaurants each season. Including, it's rumoured, to Buckingham Palace.
It’s believed that West Yorkshire once produced 90 percent of the world’s winter-forced rhubarb from the sheds within the Rhubarb Triangle between Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds.
This specially produced rhubarb is protected under the European Commission’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), just like other regional specialities, such as Champagne and Parma ham.