Top Yorkshire chef Tim Bilton is so passionate about Yorkshire food he’s swapping roses for rhubarb this Valentine’s ““ giving out bunches of the delicious pink sticks to commuters at Wakefield Westgate rail station!

Rail passengers were tickled pink today when Tim, chef proprietor of The Butchers Arms Hepworth, gave out bouquets of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, giving them a taste of romance ““ Yorkshire style!

With the Protected Designated Origin (PDO) Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb season in full swing, Tim ““ who became the official ambassador of Deliciouslyorkshire in 2011-12 for his tireless championing of local produce ““ is completely in-love with the sweet sticks, displaying bundles of them in vases at his award-winning restaurant and concocting a trio of rhubarb desserts for his new cookbook Bilton Basics, which offers ‘essential cooking skills with a touch of plain speaking’.

“Forget flowers this Valentine’s,” says Tim, who trained under Raymond Blanc. “This Yorkshire ‘love bunch’ is pretty-in-pink, healthy and regional. It’s cheaper than roses but less fattening than chocs and much better for you than pink champagne. In the 14th century, they thought it had the power to purify the blood and make young wenches look more beautiful too, so it’s the perfect gift for the girls!”

The Butchers Arms ““ which has won a clutch of national awards for its seasonal, locally-sourced food, including a prestigious 2013 ‘Top 50 Gastropubs’ listing ““ is located just outside Wakefield’s famous ‘Rhubarb Triangle’, an area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford where growers have forced rhubarb in candle-lit forcing sheds, using painstaking, hand-crafted techniques, for generations. The methods of growing and harvesting have been compared to those used to produce the world’s finest wines.

Wakefield Westgate station was also at the centre of the rhubarb industry before the Second World War when forced and unforced rhubarb from up to 200 Yorkshire growers was daily shipped down to Covent Garden by train on the so-called ‘Rhubarb Express’.

“Yorkshire Rhubarb is a gem in the Yorkshire food crown,” adds Tim. “It’s beautiful to look at and to cook with and, with its PDO status, rivals delicacies such as Parma Ham and Champagne. It’s a true ‘food of love’ grown right here on our doorstep.”