View previous topic | View next topic

Eating/Rhubarb/VictorianShow

Page 1 of 1

Bunter
154489.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:54 am Reply with quote

Q: What role did rhubarb play in the Opium Wars?

F: It fed the soldiers, any mention of the word 'crumble', any mention of 'rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!'

A: It was a key weapon for the Chinese against the British.


Notes:

During the Opium Wars in the mid 1800s, rhubarb was mostly consumed for medicinal purposes, especially as a laxative. The Chinese Government believed that they had a monopoly on the supply of rhubarb and that they could enforce mass constipation by cutting of Britian's supply.

The imperial Chinese commissioner Lin Zexu, who was responsible for ending the opium trade, wrote a letter to Queen Victoria in 1839 saying that an absence of rhubarb (and tea) would kill her citizens. When Zexu failed to hear back from the Queen (who appeared to have never had the letter translated), he sent the same letter to British merchants in China.

Ten months later - and presumably much to his embarrasment - Zexu found out that rhubarb was shipped to England as medicine in tiny quantities.

The British responded, meanwhile, by sending warships and soldiers and a very large British Indian army to decimate the Chinese.

Sources:

http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-history.html
http://www.victorianweb.org/history/empire/opiumwars/rhubarb.html



Q: Now Alan, can you please tell me what type of plant Rhubarb is?

F: Fruit

A: Vegetable. It is a close relative of garden sorrel.


Rhubarb comes from the latin 'reubarbarum' meaning literally 'barbarian rhubarb.'

Eating the leaves ("Rhubarb leaves poisoning") can cause burning in the mouth, breathing difficulty, seizures and kidney stone,

It grew wild in China and Tibet and its dried roots were used as a laxative and to cure stomach upsets.

It was only used as food in the 18th Century.

The first recorded grower in England (1777) was an apothecary from Banbury, Oxfordshire, called Hayward. It was grown earlier (1764) in the Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh.

Forced Rhubarb (sweeter rhubarb that is grown in darkness) is an important part of the economy for what is known as the "Wakefield-Leeds-Morley rhubarb growing triangle". They have a festival in Wakefield every February that celebrates 'Food, Drink and Rhubarb.'

According to Wafefield council with no trace of irony:

Quote:
The rhubarb sheds are an eerie place by candlelight and, if you are very quiet, you can actually hear the plants growing…


Sources:

http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/CultureAndLeisure/HistoricWakefield/Highlights/Rhubarb/default.htm
http://www.barfoots.co.uk/rhubarb.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002876.htm

 
eggshaped
154506.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:11 am Reply with quote

Powder made from rhubarb was used to soften leather and colour hair.

Yorkshire Today

Link to Gray's cosmetic question.

 
MatC
154534.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:51 am Reply with quote

Bunter wrote:
The Chinese Government believed that they had a monopoly on the supply of rhubarb and that they could enforce mass constipation by cutting of Britian's supply.


Weapons of Mass Constriction! Hooray!

 
MatC
154538.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:54 am Reply with quote

Bunter wrote:
Q: Now Alan, can you please tell me what type of plant Rhubarb is?

F: Fruit

A: Vegetable. It is a close relative of garden sorrel.



I always think the trouble with the fruit/vegetable trick (rhubarb is a vegetable, tomatoes are a fruit, etc) is that it only works if you only allow botanical definitions; defined by culinary use, it’s perfectly reasonable to call tomatoes a vegetable and rhubarb a fruit.

 
eggshaped
154540.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:01 am Reply with quote

The EU legally defined rhubarb as a fruit when used in jam-making here.

 
dr.bob
154545.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:45 am Reply with quote

Along with ginger, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

 
eggshaped
154551.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:52 am Reply with quote

Apropros of not very much, the welsh product "Dragon Sausages" has had to be renamed because it doesn't contain any dragons.

Quote:

A Powys County Council spokesman said: “The product was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.”


The Times

possible outro?

 
Jenny
154617.  Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:37 pm Reply with quote

The Greeks first ground up dried rhubarb root and used it as a laxative. Its use spread from Greece throughout Europe and extravagant claims were made for its curative powers. One eighteenth-century advertisement gave it the miraculous ability to cure skin ailments that included "Leprosy, Morphew, Scurg, Freckles, Spots, & etc."

Although rhubarb grew easily in northern Europe, people believed the imported stuff was better. Considering that the expensive imported stuff was often adulterated with substances like sawdust, or local roots substituted for imported ones, this faith was possibly misplaced. However, British merchants traded with the Russians for rhubarb root imported from China.

Peter the Great took advantage of this to set up a state monopoly in rhubarb, controlling all trade in the plant, while the Chinese prohibited export of rhubarb seeds. However, by 1781, Catherine the Great privatized the rhubarb trade on the grounds that this would be more efficient than the state monopoly. Caravans of camels subsequently trudged across the steppes, carrying thousands of pounds of the valuable laxative root.

Source: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF10/1087.html

 

Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group