Forced Rhubarb from the Rhubarb Triangle
The Rhubarb Triangle is a region in West Yorkshire renowned for producing Forced Rhubarb of exceptional quality. The triangle falls within the boundaries drawn between the towns of Wakefield, Leeds and Morley and covers an area of around nine square miles (23km2). Growing forced rhubarb requires that its development is strictly controlled, which can only be achieved under dark and warm conditions in specially designed ‘’forcing sheds’’, a process which produces rhubarb that tends to be longer and slenderer, more brightly and evenly coloured, more tender and less astringent than outdoor-grown alternatives. All these factors make it ideal for use in sweets and desserts, and furthermore means it requires less cooking time and less sugar to sweeten it. Anyway, the upshot is that, as predicted last week, it is now in the market and available to order. However, I must advise you that, being only just in season, volumes are still low and prices still high.
On my most recent visit to the market a mere few days ago I encountered some rather handsome looking Spanish Helda Beans (pictured). Also known variously as Flat Beans, Romano Beans and, in some Indian regions, Gavar Fhali, they’re approximately 20-25cm in length, have a smooth, silky texture and are string-less - which means they only need to be topped and tailed and cut to your required size before they’re ready for cooking. The recommended method for prepping them is to cut them into even-sized pieces or slice lengthwise into ribbons, then either boil or steam them - which should be done until just tender but still crisp. If boiling, do so for approximately 7-10, and to steam about 8-12 minutes. Over-cooking won’t just make them soggy, but also result in them turning an unattractive khaki colour.
I’d like to just briefly mention that Italian Fresh Peas have just started and should be available to order by the time you read this.
Collard Greens are a broad-leafed, cabbage-like, brassica that possess an earthy, slightly bitter flavour which has been likened to that of Kale. Sometimes sold in the UK as a variety of Spring Green, both the leaves and stems are edible and can usually be cooked simultaneously - so long as the stems are tender enough. A staple leafy green veg in the USA (especially the Southern states), Brazil, Portugal, Zimbabwe and Kashmir, UK-grown crops are just starting to arrive in the market.
Italian Fennel is looking particularly impressive at present. I’ve nothing more to add, because I think the accompanying picture just about says it all.
Even though English Mixed Winter Squashes overall are starting to become ever more difficult to source, English Crown Prince Squash is still thriving – and highly recommended. Very much alike in appearance to a West Indian-style pumpkin, but with pale-green skin, its flesh is orange and fibrous and surrounds a pulpy seed cavity which can easily be scooped-out. It can be cooked and used in exactly the same way as Butternut Squash, but due to its size (an average one can weigh-in at between 3-6kg), simply halving it in order to roast it would be a little impractical, therefore it would need to be cut into wedges – or, at the very least, quartered.
Cyprus Potatoes are large and long with flaky skins stained with the rustic orange tinge of the earth that bore them. One of the most distinctive and celebrated of all spud varieties, their slightly waxy, slightly creamy yellow flesh possesses a unique texture that enables them to be successfully used in a variety of ways, such as baked, wedged, roasted, boiled or even chipped. Not cheap, but worth every penny.