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Rhubarb Festival – Wakefield

This years Rhubarb Festival will be a 3-day event, running from from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th February.  This year is going to be bigger and better than ever with a market in the Cathedral precinct, cookery demonstrations, walks and tours.

Wakefield was traditionally the centre of rhubarb growing with the Rhubarb Triangle covering the Wakefield, East Ardsley, Rothwell, Carlton and Morley areas.  For over 150 years the fruit has been growing here, as conditions were ideal. There was plenty of local fuel – coal, and a large number of market gardeners.

A large amount of rhubarb was grown in ‘forcing sheds’, they bring an early crop and some can still be seen locally.  It is said that in the sheds, lit only by candles you can hear the rhubarb growing and as candles are moved to keep the rhubarb straight the light green tops turn to face the light – this could be the noise heard by the growers as the leaves are still uncurling. themselves

Years ago rhubarb was sent to Leeds on overnight trains full of rhubarb for the London markets.  Along with Champagne, Parma Ham, Yorkshire Rhubarb has protected status and joins British foods such as the Melton Mowbray pork pie, Stilton cheese, Arbroath Smokies and Jersey Royal potatoes to name just a few.

p.s. keep the event quiet as I want to be able to get a parking space!!

Wakefield – history and heritage here

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For information and tours visit here E Oldroyd & Sons

A morning at the Rhubarb Festival – better late than never !

Sorry for the delay this post, but as they say ‘better late than never’.

The small ‘foody’ market was in the centre of Wakefield, just outside the Cathedral and was packed with visitors and most importantly for the sellers, the visitors were carrying lots of bags.  But, not only were there stalls packed with all kinds of gastronomical delights there were cookery demonstrations in a brilliant marquee.  They included rhubarb scones with Dean Rogers of The Devere Oulton Hall, Ashley McCarthy of Ye Old Sun Inn, Heather Copley of Farmer Copley’s, students of Wakefield College and many more.

My first stall at the busy market was Sean Wilson of the Saddleworth Cheese Co.  We had bought Sean’s cheese before from Blacker Hall,  a local farm shop.  My son and daughter visited there one January morning with my daughter boyfriend and two cheeses stood out above the rest,  ‘How’s your father’ and ‘Mouth Almighty’, both cheese names having a link to recent events in our family and if I told you, I think you may be shocked, stunned or just laugh, well, maybe one day I will. But needless to say we laughed and cried over one of the names and came up with some amusing answers to ‘How was your father’?

So Sean’s cheeses were the first of my purchases and yes, again I bought those two particular types.  I was asked if I wanted a sample but said, ‘no thanks, know them well’.

Thanks Sean, ‘How’s your father’ is a winner in this household.

My main aim of the day was now over and I could see what was on offer.  A compulsive purchase, but one that I have not regretted buying was a small book, well, booklet entitled ‘Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle’ by Richard Bell.  Well, I have not been on the walks yet but have certainly made some of the recipes on more than one occasion – I even bought out the local supermarket of Golden Syrup and oats.  I did keep the rhubarb very local though – East Ardsley!  So, the book, it is packed with easy to follow short walks backed up with snippets of history and easy follow maps.  As I said I bought one, then thought better of it and made that 2 – one being for the local family history group.

Oldroyd & Sons had a big stall selling fresh produce including rhubarb goodies including plants for you to grow on in your own gardens.

Two other stall I visited and bought goodies from were Mr Huda’s where I bought a universal curry paste and Raman’s, buying a beetroot relish.  Both stalls had very helpful staff and were only too pleased to speak to their visitors.  The relish, I was told,  goes well with turkey, pepper dusted steak, mashed spuds and venison  – yummy!

Venison sausages were next on the agenda, very rich and very nice, but my apologies to the stall holder – I cooked the sausages, ate them and forgot to make a  note of his stalls name , but do remember where the farm is – sorry but the sausage were beautiful.

My last purchase was 2 pork pies, but not ordinary ‘growlers’ these were pork, mango and rhubarb, well I think they had rhubarb in, but even so, warmed up and served with a hot cup of ‘builders tea’ they went down a real treat.

My last stall was Farmer Copley’s, a farm shop near Pontefract, I didn’t buy anything, I was very good but was given a discount voucher to use when I paid the farm shop a visit – which I did later and may I hasten to add will be doing so again and again even if its just for the frozen croissants and pain au chocolat.

You can see from my purchases I didn’t stop at the cake stalls, as they say ‘why have a dog and bark yourself’ – I bake, so why buy it!  But there were cake stalls providing the visitors with an array of tempting delights.  I also noticed a couple of stalls selling rape seed oil and one stall full of blue and white Polish pottery.

So, where can you find out about these stalls and what else they sell and do ?

Sean Wilson’s Saddleworth Cheese Co., and his wonderfully named cheeses

Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle and other publications by Richard Bell

Round Green Farm for venison sausages and much more

Raman’s  relishes – winners of Hairy Bikers best cooking family

Mr Huda’s pastes and a selection of recipies and I am pleased to say the only place in Wakefield that this can be bought is in my village  – well done R N Binks and Sons,  butchers and very nice people.

Rhubarb, Rhubarb and more Rhubarb !!

The Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb takes place on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 February 2011 – yes, this weekend.

Wakefield’s famous Yorkshire  Forced Rhubarb has now  European Protected Food Status, joining Champagne, Parma Ham, Cheshire Cheese and the Cornish Pasty

Whats happening this weekend then ?

Jean-Christophe Novelli, cooks for Wakefield Hospice – details here

Sean Wilson of Coronation Street fame – cooks in Wakefield Cathedral Precinct – more information

Wakefield Cathedral Precinct ‘foody festival’ on Friday and Saturday – entertainment, cookery demonstrations, walks and tours etc.

For a full list of places to stay, see and do during the 2 day event click here.

What are you waiting for, head into Wakefield on Friday or Saturday, but then why not both days and enjoy !!