out of the darkness and into the light…

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Rhubarb  may not be the most exciting of foods but it has an illustrious pedigree; one which belies its current status. The plant’s history can be traced back to 2700 BC in China and medicinal rhubarb, the powdered root, was a staple of international trade routes in the time of Marco Polo. It’s health properties were reinforced on Friday when researchers at Sheffield Hallam announced that rhubarb contains anti-cancer properties. This weekend I visited the Rhubarb Triangle in the West Riding. Here rhubarb is grown and picked by candlelight in long, low-ceilinged forcing sheds; thwarting nature and depriving the plants of light to create a sweet, stunningly red-coloured stalk. They use methods handed down through the generations and in the darkness you can hear the buds emerging from the roots with a distinctive ‘pop’. Rhubarb is easy to grow; it can be forced by placing a bucket over the crown, it freezes well and it’s good for you too. Following the promotion of natural remedies such as bilberries and goji berries as miraculous health endowing super-foods; 2010 could be the year that  Rheum rhaponticum emerges from the darkness and into the light.

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