Talking rhubarb - Wakefield Food Festival celebrates it's favourite food

They're thinking pink in Wakefield this month as they celebrate their favourite food

Yorkshire food-lovers get to bite into their first foodie festival of the new year this month at the extended Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb.

Key elements of this year’s celebration of all things tasty, which runs from February 24th to 26th, include Rhubarb Experience tours of Oldroyd’s farm; food demonstrations by TV chef Rachel Green; a talk by Annabel Smith, the UK’s only female real ale inspector; street entertainment led by festival dame Ruby Rhubarb; a rocking music event; and backstage tours of Wakefield Theatre Royal.

The festival was originally established to celebrate the traditional links between Wakefield and rhubarb growing while offering the finest and tastiest regional produce and showcasing the most talented of local chefs.The city’s famous delicacy has since joined the hallowed ranks of Europe’s protected foods, with Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb now elevated to the same status as Champagne and Parma Ham (and what a delicious combination all three would be!).

The first forced rhubarb was grown in the county in 1877 in an area spanning Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford that eventually became known famously as the Rhubarb Triangle and, at one time, produced at least 75 per cent of the world’s forced rhubarb.

Frost is necessary to growing this type of produce and is something Yorkshire has in abundance over the cold winter months, particularly in the frost pocket that runs alongside the Pennines.

There was a time when more than 200 growers were selling their wares in West Yorkshire, producing hundreds of tons a week to feed the need at home and abroad. This level of success continued until the Second World War when rhubarb began to fall from favour and the high cost of production was to push many growers into bankruptcy.

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Today there are less than a dozen forced rhubarb growers left, but they are a force to be reckoned with, talking up their produce at every opportunity.

But you don’t have to take their word for it. You can find out for yourself at this month’s festival. Now in its sixth year, Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb will showcase the best of the region’s food and drink providers while celebrating the district’s unique foodie traditions.

Footfall was estimated at 80,000 in 2011 and much larger crowds are expected this time around as the festival continues to build on its previous success with an exciting mix of live cookery demonstrations, street entertainment, workshops and taster sessions.

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

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