Shoppers are the first to get their hands on this hero crumble ingredient, Specially Selected Forced Rhubarb, which would have typically been sold direct to restaurants around the UK. Available from 4th March for £1.99 for 400g recyclable punnet, if the product proves as popular as expected, it could be rolled out nationwide.

Forced rhubarb is the out of season rhubarb grown indoors. It is prized by top chefs and restauranteurs, with a surprising and complex story. Much pinker and sweeter than traditional rhubarb, it is first grown outside for a period of two years so that the exposure to frost toughens the roots, the rhubarb is then lifted from the ground and placed into forcing sheds. Once in darkened sheds, heat is applied causing the rhubarb to grow quickly in search of light. At the end of forcing, the exhausted rootstock is discarded.

The process is lengthy and capital intensive, requiring special buildings, heating and skilled labour – and now there are only a handful of growers left in the UK. These growers have been badly affected by the closure of the hospitality industry.

Scott Woolford, Business Development Manager, Farm Fresh PO, said: “Like many other suppliers of forced rhubarb, we could experience decreased demand this season as hospitality venues remain closed.  Although we’ve still been able to sell some of our produce locally, working with Aldi has provided us with a welcome increased supply platform to attract new customers and ensure more UK consumers are aware of this great product.

“We are grateful to Aldi for its long-term commitment and ongoing support of Farm Fresh PO. The partnership gives us the confidence to keep investing in our business and we look forward to expanding even further over the next few years with Aldi’s support.”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be supporting a small scale forced rhubarb farm by helping sell surplus stock, as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting British suppliers. We are thrilled to be able to put this year’s harvest to good use, which would otherwise have gone to waste. This unassuming vegetable has long been a staple of the British diet, from fools and crumbles to gins and jams, so we’re looking forward to seeing how Aldi shoppers respond to this delicious retro veg.”

Aldi’s Forced Rhubarb is on sale to shoppers in the North West, North Wales and West Midlands for £1.99 from 4th March.