BEST IELTS General Reading Test 411

BEST IELTS General Reading Test 411

IELTS GENERAL READING TEST 411 – PASSAGE – 3

IELTS General Reading Test

IELTS GENERAL READING TEST – 411

READING PASSAGE – 3

Forced rhubarb

Rhubarb has large fan-shaped leaves and long, green edible stalks, which are commonly cooked, with sugar to make pies and other desserts. One type of rhubarb is grown in the dark to produce longer, roster stalks and this is called ‘forced rhubarb’

A. In the north of England, a cold winter is good news for some, and not just snowmen and woolly hat makers. According to Yorkshire farmer David Westwood, this year’s forced rhubarb is the best for years. Westwood, a softly spoken Yorkshireman, should know. He’s been growing and selling rhubarb for 62 years, since he started picking on the farm aged 11. His son Jonathan works on the farm too, making him the sixth generation of the Westwoods to grow the pink stems or ‘petioles’ as they are otherwise known.

IELTS General Reading Test

B. We meet at his farm, a few miles from the city of Wakefield, which with the cities of Bradford and Leeds form the three points of the Rhubarb Triangle, the heart of the. British rhubarb industry. ‘It doesn’t grow as well anywhere else,’ insists Westwood. He has a number of theories as to why this is. The loam soil on a clay base is perfect for the roots or “crowns’ which rhubarb grows from.

In Victorian times — the mid-to-late 1800s – when rhubarb’s popularity was at its peak, the local coal mines provided cheap fuel for heating the sheds, a, crucial part of the forcing process, which involves depriving the plants of light as they develop. At the same time, the effluence from the industry enriched the soil for farmers. On top of that, according to Westwood, the high levels of pollution in the air would have been ideal for the rhubarb, as ‘rhubarb loves soot’.

IELTS General Reading Test

C. Westwood’s farm produces both the greenish outdoor rhubarb, the kind that grows well In gardens all over the country, and the startlingly pink forced rhubarb. It’s this that is the ‘cream of the crop’, the upper class of the rhubarb family. Forced rhubarb is the one that’s most likely to convert rhubarb-haters who’ve been traumatized by harshly flavoured school pies made from green overgrown outdoor stems. The slender magenta spears, with a sherbet-tangy flavour and delicate texture, are a far cry from that coarse, bitter stuff.

It’s also a rare local fruit (although technically a vegetable) at a time when Imports dominate, and a welcome splash of colour in the drab winter months. No wonder chefs and food writers have fallen in love with forced rhubarb all over again. It’s enjoying a remarkable renaissance, for only 20 years ago it was In such decline that Westwood, one of the last 12 growers left from a peak of 200, was considering abandoning It.

IELTS General Reading Test

D. There are certainly simpler ways to grow food. First the plant roots, or crowns, are grown outside for more than two years. Then, at the start of their third winter, they are left in the ground until it Is cold enough to break the crowns’ dormancy. This is one of the factors that gives British rhubarb the edge over imports from the Netherlands, which arrive in the country a scene-stealing couple Of Weeks before the Yorkshire crop. To bring them to market that early, the Dutch crowns are fed with gibberellic acid, to replace the hormones naturally generated by a period of cold weather.

Westwood Is relaxed on the subject of the imported rhubarb, remarking only: ‘It’s good-looking all right, but the flavour’s nowhere near.’ Back In Yorkshire, sometime around the middle of November, the crowns are dug up, transferred to sheds with earthen floors, and watered In. The light is blocked out completely and the heating is turned on. In the warm and dark, the shoots appear so quickly that the buds can be heard gently popping. Within three weeks or so, the first round of picking, or ‘pulling’ as it’s known, can begin.

IELTS General Reading Test

E. In Westwood’s 1920s rhubarb sheds, It is pitch black. I slip and slide on the narrow troughs that serve as paths between the beds of rhubarb crowns. It’s a relief when a team of ‘pullers’ arrive, all local men, some of whom have been working for Westwood for 40 years. Each carries a sturdy candle, and their pale, flickering light reveals a sea of yellow leaves stretching 40 metres to the far wall. The men walk the beds plucking the satiny stems expertly, choosing only the ones that have reached the length of an arm.

Then, cradling the fuchsia pink bundles in their arms, they move on to the next patch. It’s an extraordinary sight in this age of mechanised, computerised agriculture. ‘The pulling’s done much the same way as it always has been,’ Westwood says. ‘Electric light spoils the colour.’ A labour-intensive process, it goes some way to explain the admittedly eye-watering price of the best forced rhubarb – that and the heating, now from oil or propane rather than coal.

IELTS General Reading Test

F. So how was this arcane cold-dark-heat process, in use since Victorian times, discovered? Westwood’s story is appealingly earthy. A gardener threw an old crown onto the horse stable muck pile. The manure was hot, and the plant was soon covered. The stable boy must have been puzzled by the startling pink spears that came pushing through the dirt a week or two later, but happily he had the good sense to gather them. Where there’s muck there’s money – and good eating indeed.

IELTS General Reading Test

Questions 28—33

The text has six paragraphs, A—F.

Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number; i—vii, in boxes 28—33 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i. The extra time is worth it

ii. The preferred rhubarb for consumers

iii. Yorkshire’s declining air quality

iv. Observing the selection process

v. Suggesting a possible beginning

vi. A long-standing family business

vii. The best region for forced rhubarb

28. Paragraph A

29. Paragraph B

30. Paragraph C

31. Paragraph D

32. Paragraph E

33. Paragraph F

IELTS General Reading Test

Questions 34-36

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

Write the correct letter in boxes 34—36 on your answer sheet.

34. What aspect of forced rhubarb does the writer praise in Paragraph C?

A. its suitability for pies

B. the smoothness of its stems

C. its superiority over other types of rhubarb

D. the number of places it can be successfully grown

35. Why does the writer think forced rhubarb has become more popular among cooking experts?

A. It is cheap and easy to grow.

B. It is attractive and pleasant to eat.

C. Local farmers are producing more of it.

D. Imported varieties are in limited supply.

IELTS General Reading Test

36. In the final paragraph, the writer suggests that forced rhubarb was first produced

A. by accident.

B. as animal feed.

C. through trial and error.

D. while growing something else.

Questions 37-40

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the text for each answer.

Growing forced rhubarb

During November, rhubarb crowns are removed from the soil and replanted in dark sheds that have plenty of heating. These conditions encourage such fast growth that the buds make a (37)……….. sound as the pink stalks appear. The growing period lasts around three weeks. After that, the rhubarb can be picked by a group of people known as (38)……….. . They use a (39)……….. to inspect the stems and to make sure they are as long as a human (40)……….. before handling them with expert skill.

IELTS General Reading Test

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BEST IELTS General Reading Test 411

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IELTS General Reading Test

ANSWERS

28. vi

29. vii

30. ii

31. i

32. iv

33. v

34. C

35. B

36. A

37. POPPING

38. PULLERS

39. CANDLE

40. ARM

IELTS General Reading Test

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