An Unusual Crop

Around the town of Pontefract, Yorkshire, there are rich, deep, sandy, well drained soils.  These are ideal for growing…

…liquorice.

Before you get excited and start imagining the most amazing pick your own farm, I should tell you that liquorice comes from the roots of a bush.  The roots are harvested by digging a trench down one side of the row of plants.  Next year the plants are harvested on the other side.  As the main root goes straight down, the plant can survive being pruned in this way.

For hundreds of years liquorice root was grown and harvested around Pontefract, to supply sweet-making factories in the town.  However, getting a harvest from liquorice plants takes time and effort and the cost of labour here is expensive.

As a result, the sweet-making factories switched to sourcing their liquorice from Turkey, Italy and Spain, where it could be grown more cheaply.

The land around Pontefract was turned over to cereal crops like wheat, which can be planted, tended and harvested by machine.

However, an enterprising farmer near Pontefract is diversifying from cereals and has planted some liquorice.  He is not attempting to sell to the sweet factories, who still use cheap imports, but intends to sell liquorice chewing sticks and other products in his own farm shop.

Check out this Farmers Weekly article for pictures and lots more information.

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