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PUBLISHED: 05:57 06 April 2015

Rhubarb is in season

Rhubarb is in season

Archant

From hot cross buns to hot rhubarb crumble, plenty of treats to enjoy says Judith Taylor, our voice of farming from Ludham.

Simnel cakeSimnel cake

Rhubarb, a vegetable, has been around for a very long time, in fact the first recorded use is 2700BC. It was used medicinally for a variety of ailments, particularly concerning the gut, lungs and liver. In 1657 in England it was so highly regarded as an effective drug it commanded three times the price of opium!

You may have seen it for sale in the shops over the past few weeks. This is likely to have been from the famous “Rhubarb Triangle” in Yorkshire where it is forced in warm sheds to produce the striking watermelon pink, sweet and tender “Champagne” rhubarb stems – the crème de la crème of rhubarb – not to be confused with the particular variety of the same name. This month we can enjoy it from our own gardens, but don’t forget that the beautiful, large, umbrella-like leaves are poisonous.

Well oiled

Protect seedlings in cold framesProtect seedlings in cold frames

According to Norfolk’s Big C charity newsletter, we should be eating more oily fish – such as sardines, salmon and mackerel – which are in the top 10 cancer fighting foods. They are high in Omega-3 and antioxidants vitamin A and D, calcium, B12 and iron.

Time for cake

Mothering Sunday is always on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which this year is March 15. Traditionally this was a day when children, mainly daughters, who were in domestic service had a day off and took gifts to their mothers – often flowers picked from the hedgerows, but also Simnel cake, a fruit cake with almond paste on the top and in the middle with 11 marzipan balls representing the 11 disciples, excluding Judas. Sugared violets were often added.

Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns are in abundance at this time of year and there are many theories about their provenance. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference is only from 1733 in the form of a ditty:

“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns.”

They are plentiful in Christian symbolism – bread as part of the Communion, spiced to signify the spices wrapped around Jesus in the tomb, and the cross.

Judith’s book of the month

The New Classics by Donna Hay was published by Hardie Grant in 2014. I treated myself to this fabulous cookery book (as if I needed another one) just after Christmas and have enjoyed making lots of the delicious dishes already. Containing 300-plus classic recipes with a modern twist from lollipops, to pavlova, vanilla custard slices to salami, ricotta and basil pizza, soups, pasta, roasts . . . the list goes on and includes the basics, easy and more complicated dishes all with clear instructions. The photographs are stunning – the best I’ve ever seen in any cookery book.

On the veggie patch

If you’ve covered and warmed up a patch of soil and if the weather is suitable, you might be able to sow a few seeds under cloches, otherwise use the greenhouse and cold frames – there’s no rush.

Plant early potatoes, garlic and shallots and bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes by the end of the month.

Put plenty of muck on to the ground before you plant and sow.

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