JERSEY ROYAL NEW POTATOES
The fabulous flavour of Jersey Royal new potatoes arises from the unique growing conditions on the island (see below). A true seasonal gem, around 99% of the crop is exported to the UK and the rest are enjoyed by the Jersey inhabitants. How lucky are we? The season is short-lived so gorge on them while you can.
In around 1880 a Jersey farmer, Hugh de la Haye, discovered and harvested a potato that was initially named the Jersey Royal Fluke. This developed into today’s Jersey Royal new potato which is now grown by approximately 90 island farmers and accounts for two-thirds on the island’s agricultural output.
It is the growing conditions, rather than any significant genetic difference, that makes the Jersey Royal a special kind of new potato. The island slopes from north to south and so benefits from a large level of sunlight during the growing season. The soil is well-drained and nutrient-rich thanks to the vraic (locally collected seaweed) that is used as a fertiliser.
The early season potatoes are smaller and more tender, the later season ones larger and more flavourful; both are fabulous. Look for unwashed potatoes; they travel better wearing a jacket of earth.
To enjoy them at their best buy just what you plan to use in the next two days and keep them in a cool, dark place.
Leave the skins on – most of the flavour and goodness lies just beneath the surface – and give them a wash. Steam or boil until tender (15 – 20 minutes, cut larger potatoes in half if necessary) and add butter and other fresh herbs such as mint, chives or parsley as desired.
The reason why?
Much of the crop of Jersey Royals is grown in fields too steep to be harvested mechanically hence the price being high. A large number of the potatoes are picked by a visiting seasonal workforce that travels from, amongst other places, Poland and Madeira.
Check out this month’s recipe for Sautéed jersey royals with black pudding and fried egg – delicious!