What are my special features?
The Jersey Royal Potato is Jersey’s most famous export and can be found in most British supermarkets during the season, Easter to June. Jersey Royal Potatoes are small kidney-shaped potatoes with fragile, papery skins that rub off easily. Jersey Royals are graded into three sizes: ware, small ware and mids (the smallest). The texture is firm and waxy with a nutty, earthy flavour.
What is my history?
Jersey has grown potatoes commercially since the early 19th Century. In 1880, a Jersey potato grower called Hugh de la Haye came across some oddly looking potatoes with an unusually high number of sprouts. He planted and harvested the potatoes finding that they were superior in taste. The seeds were saved and harvested again next season leading to the so-called ‘Jersey Fluke’ potato being sold commercially in later years.
This was the high tide of British Imperialism in the late Victorian era, when anything good was christened ‘royal’ in tribute to the Queen. This led to the Jersey Fluke becoming the Royal Jersey Fluke and eventually the Jersey Royal.
Traditionally these potatoes were grown on steep south facing coastal slopes (côtils) and could only be planted and harvested by hand. On flatter ground they can be mechanically harvested. Jersey Royal Potatoes were also grown in rotation, especially on dairy farms where the manure was used for fertiliser. Another form of traditional fertiliser is ‘vraic’ (Jersey seaweed).
The distinctive flavour of the potatoes coupled with the fact that they are the first ‘new’ potatoes of the year within the UK created a high demand for Jersey Royals. However, this demand has been problematic in encouraging the use of polythene to force the potatoes even earlier in the year.
Why am I forgotten?
By the 1960’s and 1970’s, potatoes were being imported from countries such as Israel and Egypt causing the Jersey Royal to no longer be the earliest potato in UK retail outlets. This led to the decline of the Jersey Royal, a decline that is now beginning to accelerate. There are also few farmers, who fertilise fields with vraic and take the time to harvest the steepest sloping slopes (côtils), which like vineyards catch the early sun.
Don’t lose me… cook me!