Apr 11, 2010
"Champagne Rhubarb is rhubarb grown by a special technique. The rhubarb is "forced" to grow very early in the season, in "forcing sheds." Though it is still winter outside at the time, the sheds provide warmth to cause the rhubarb to grow earlier than it would outside. Restricted light in the sheds causes the stalks to be less tart, less fibrous, lighter in colour (a very pale pink), and more delicate overall -- hence the name "champagne." In Wakefield, Yorkshire, England, producing Champagne Rhubarb has become an industry. The rhubarb is started outside in the cold, then moved into long, low, "forcing-sheds" sheds. The warmer sheds fool the Rhubarb into thinking that spring has arrived, so that the stalks will begin to grow in earnest. The rhubarb is grown in near darkness, traditionally by candlelight, and is even harvested by candlelight to avoid any encouragement of photosynthesis."
-Via Practically Edibe.
I distinctly remember eating rhubarb (and gooseberries!), possibly for the first time, when we stayed at our friends the Duff's house in Dorchester in the late '80s. They had a fabulous piece of property and we picked it from their garden - the tartness was memorable. This champagne rhubarb business is also memorable. It was everywhere - and really was even more delicious, and more strangely beautiful, than its more natural counterpart. We ate it in desserts - sorbet at Clarke's, sabayon at the Kensington Place, stewed at the River Cafe, and I made a wonderful batch of compote that we ate over fresh goat curd from Neal's Yard Dairy with fresh mint.
Sadly, I did not eat this delicious looking thing from Monmouth Coffee: