Growing heritage: the Jersey Royal story

  

My name's William Church, I'm the sales and marketing director for the Jersey Royal Company, based here in Jersey. We've been supplying Tesco with Jersey Royal potatoes for 25 years.

We're stood in the glass house at the moment and the glass house crop will be planted from November time. They generally start to be lifted from the end of February, throughout March and possibly into April.

The earliest Jersey Royals planted outdoors are covered using a plastic mould; which is effectively a plastic sheet and the reason for that is we're trying to create a greenhouse effect to protect the very young potatoes so they come up during the winter months.

The covers then come off and the plant will then grow on. They're also grown on what we call cotils, which are very steep south-easting slopes and that's really trying to maximise the geographical advantage Jersey has by being the most southerly British isle and having a more temperate climate. So the south-east facing slopes catch the early sun and that helps the potato come to maturity so it can be lifted and go to the market.

It's all about getting from field to fork, as we like to say. Collectively, over the season, the island is exporting somewhere in the region of 30,000 tonnes of potatoes; quite a lot for an island only nine miles by five.

One of the unique things about Jerseys is that they're all planted by hand and the reason that we plant them by hand is because it's precision planting, so that all of the potatoes are facing in the same direction with the sprouts a little bit pointed upwards. The idea behind that is so they'll come to maturity quicker. So we're harvesting a crop on roughly 12 weeks; whereas a main crop potato could be in the ground for 18 to 20 weeks.

Jersey Royals are also unique in that they have a protected designation of origin; they're the only potato that has that. That's a bit like champagne coming from Champagne, Parma ham from Parma; Jersey Royal potatoes can only be grown in Jersey.

We spread a lot of vraic, which is the local word for seaweed, onto the potatoes and that adds something to the flavour of them because it's full of minerals and therefore it helps the whole fertility of the soil. Jerseys have got a wonderful flavour; they've got a sweet, nutty flavour and a waxy texture. If you do need to store them overnight, you can keep them in the fridge which will prolong their life.

There's a lot of debate about the best way to cook a Jersey Royal potato. Some people like to steam them but I prefer to have it at room temperature, put it into the pan, boil it for about 20 minutes. When you can just put a knife into them and they drop off the end of the knife, you know they're cooked perfectly. Beautiful Jersey Royal potatoes.

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