Some U.K. farmers want frosty weather

Jan. 10, 2012 at 3:55 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- British growers of a very special crop -- so-called "forced" rhubarb -- say the country's unseasonably mild weather threatens their livelihood.

While other vegetable farmers have welcomed the mildest Christmas period in 14 years, rhubarb growers in West Yorkshire say they're faced with delays and potential quality problems because of this winter's failure to deliver the cold and frost their specialty crop needs, The Guardian reported.

The plants are rooted outside and need intense cold before being moved to dimly-lit sheds to be "tricked" into rapid growth which produces succulent sweet-and-sour flavors.

Rhubarb has enjoyed a revival in the last 20 years, growers said.

"We're back to supplying all sorts of top-end hotels and restaurants," Janet Oldroyd Hulme of Oldroyd's, the area's biggest producer, said. "That was how it used to be in the old days and it's a tonic that the taste's come back.

"But this year we're seeing conditions which none of us have experienced before and they are worrying."

"The roots should look dead and lifeless when they come in for forcing, but we've been getting some with little sprigs of the new growth already starting," she said.

"I've never seen that in all my life, and we don't want it. It means that the rhubarb isn't really forced and so it doesn't have the special taste."

One or two frosty nights have helped, she said, but more is needed.

"We've caught up a bit since but, nice though this mild weather may be, what we all want is a good, sharp frost."

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