A friend asked me to try his home-made rhubarb wine at the weekend. Is it Yorkshire tusky,’ I asked. Silence accompanied by puzzled looks. Well, he is from the deep south (Nottingham) and my way of integrating him into the community is to throw in the odd Yorkshire term now and then for educational reasons. However, at the same time I also flummoxed a Yorkshirewoman with the expression. I presume tusky is a localised term for rhubarb and I remember as a youngster lifting the odd piece of rhubarb from the fields between Batley and Morley – goodness knows why, because it always left me with some degree of tummy trouble. Does anyone know why it’s called tusky? Wakefield holds its annual Food, Drink and Rhubarb Festival this Friday and Saturday… maybe I’ll discover the answer there.

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  1. Paul Booth

    Rhubarb wine sounds very good to me. I have always been amused at the thought rhubarb is a vegetable. What with having rhubarb and custard, rhubarb crumble and rhubarb pie as a nipper it just does not seem appropiate. It was grown by Asiatic tribes such as the Mongols and Huns and may have been brought to Britain by the Romans. Leeds, Morley and Wakefield are known as ‘rhubarb triangle’. Which certainly beats the Bermuda Triangle and Golden Triangle for glamour in my book. Never heard ‘tusky’ before, however.

  2. Dave O'Reilly

    The term “tusky” is mentioned many times in that wonderful book by Keith Waterhouse ( a Leeds man?),
    “There is a Happy Land”
    about the pains of growing up in t’North.

    e.g. “The tusky fields”


  3. Eileen

    Having just listened to a talk on Pontefract, Licquorice and Wilkinsons who were the biggest manufacturers of Pontefract licquorice cakes I wondered if this was “TUSKY”
    As a young woman I read Keith Waterhouses novel Jubb and he mentioned playing in the Tusky fields.
    I now know from your article that Tusky is rhubarb. Thankyou

  4. Raymond Foster

    I was born in Leeds in October of 1925, tusky is something we all lived with and for myself and many other Yorkshire people we knew it by its very large leaf that was expected to be the same as the elephant’s ear. Nothing to do with the stalk that seems to have been ‘made-up’ by some academic who certainly didn’t live close to fields of it.
    Beryl’s rhubarb was not this and as near as could be managed red stalked and grown exclusively in low sheds covered by black material, tarred usually her and her boss Nim Carline were of a time just a little after mine….both dead now of course.
    In Leeds and district we had rhubarb as a very cheap product but needing a lot of sugar, the Tusky that grew outside in much semi-waste land was only picked for the jam industry.
    I could go on about jam jars and their connection with such as Robertsons but for us Yorkies of away back then it’s all water-under-the-bridge.


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