THE gin drinking trend appears to be forcing a rhubarb revolution.

Demand for the versatile liquor flavoured by juniper berries, has led to a growth in sales of the nutritious vegetable which is already renowned for its healthy properties.

According to the annual poll by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) Britons bought a record 47 million bottles of gin over the last year, up by seven million on 2016 as consumers named G&T their favourite drink.

Rhubarb and Ginger Negroni, a mix of rhubarb gin, gin liquer, Campari and Vermouth, is the signature cocktail at The Ticket Office Bar.

Ilkley's premium cocktail and drinks bar, based in the railway station complex, also sells the Rhubarb Triangle, created in partnership with the local cancer charity fundraisers, Ilkley Candlelighters.

Bar manager, Ian de Rijk, explains the versatile vegetable is massive in Yorkshire and punters are proud of that fact.

"In my experience rhubarb in Yorkshire is massive," says Ian, referring to the famous Rhubarb Triangle.

"Yorkshire folk are incredibly proud."

He says the gin revival has helped to boost the popularity of rhubarb and the flavours complement each other well.

"It is a very versatile flavour," says Ian.

Robert Tomlinson is the fourth generation of rhubarb growers at B Tomlinson rhubarb growers in Pudsey.

The family firm produces 40 to 50 tonnes of forced rhubarb every year and 80 to 90 per cent supplies restaurants up and down the country.

Robert says he has noticed growing demand for the vegetable, particularly within the drinks industry.

"Gin is popular at the moment anyway and with it being rhubarb season people want to make rhubarb gin."

His firm already supplies soft drink manufacturer Square Root Soda and he has also had inquiries from breweries as well as a vodka manufacturer.

"Rhubarb is fashionable," adds Robert.

"The last few years there has been a lot of demand for rhubarb so we have grown," he says, referring to the development of their sheds in the Fifties and Sixties.

Robert says the growing demand for rhubarb in the drinks industry will be particularly beneficial to the sale of their Class 2 rhubarb which is a slimmer stick with the same flavour, according to Robert.

Ed Taylor, co-founder of London-based Square Root Soda which he developed four years ago with his partner Robyn Simms, explains their rhubarb range is one of their best selling seasonal products.

Last year the company produced around 30,000 bottles, but Ed says he hopes to top that to 40,000 this year.

"It is one of our original seasonal recipes. It is a familiar flavour, people aren't afraid of it. The Yorkshire Triangle has a good reputation in the UK and it tastes amazing. It is a fantastic drink.

"People are really talking about rhubarb. People are drawn to it because it tastes so different. It isn't lemonade, it's something they already know. It's really fruity - it's cool," adds Ed.

Rhubarb is already renowned for its healthy properties. Studies have shown it could help in the fight against cancer.

But Colin Wright, Professor of Pharmacognosy, Bradford School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of Bradford, says this doesn't necessarily mean rhubarb will be effective in the prevention or treatment of cancer. "For example, the amounts of the compounds may be too low, they may not be very well absorbed and they are likely to be inactivated in the body," he explains.

"Having said that, it is well established that the risk of cancer is reduced by a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and that this is due at least in part to antioxidants such as polyphenols in these foods. Whether rhubarb is better in this respect than other foods is difficult to say although it could be argued that those foods with higher amounts of polyphenols may be more beneficial than others. Overall, in my opinion, the best advice that can be given with respect to preventing cancer is to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables - rhubarb could be part of this - exercising regularly, keeping or reducing weight down to recommended limits and avoiding 'high risk' activities such as smoking and alcohol consumption above recommended limits."