Native to China and Tibet and originated over 2000 years ago, rhubarb only began to be eaten for pleasure in the West in the 18th century. In the UK, the outdoor grown variety is available from April to September. What is in shops now is forced rhubarb; which becomes available late in winter and is grown in West Yorkshire in an area dubbed the Rhubarb Triangle.
Forced rhubarb refers to the method used to grow rhubarb out of season. Long low level sheds house the plants in a warm and dark environment. This forces the rhubarb to concentrate on growing sweeter stalks rather than leaves that absorb sunlight. Stalks are picked at night by hand and by candlelight- too much light will halt further growth of a plant. Supposedly- if you’re silent whilst in a shed, you can hear the rhubarb growing.
Rhubarb is a divisive flavour that has enjoyed resurgence again after a post- WWII period of decline when new and exotic offerings arrived. Commonly referred to as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a vegetable rich in vitamin C and fibre. Because of it crisp and tangy taste, rhubarb pairs as well with savoury dishes as it does the sweet dishes we are accustomed to eating. When stewed it makes a tasty compote that pairs well with yogurt for a quick breakfast treat.
For the rhubarb:
225g / 8oz rhubarb, cut into chunks
45g / 3tbsp sugar
1 piece of stem ginger
To assemble the Breakfast Cup:
Put the rhubarb, sugar, stem ginger and a spoonful of water in a small saucepan over low heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Give the saucepan a shake every now and then so that all the rhubarb cooks.
To assemble the breakfast cups, alternate layers of rhubarb, yogurt and muesli.
Once the rhubarb is cooked, you can either store it to eat over a few days or you can eat it straight away.