The best Jersey Royals
by Daniel Culpan | 10 May 2011 | 8 commentsTweet
When it comes to seasonal food, the newest crop of Jersey Royals are a much-anticipated arrival. Daniel Culpan picks the best.
Apologies to Wills and Kate, but the only Royals I’m excited about at the moment are the Jersey variety. With seasonal eating all the rage, the anticipated arrival of the first potato crop is as much a welcome sign of Spring as daffodils and freshly cut grass.
Considered the ‘champagne of the potato world’ (I’ll definitely raise a toast to that!), Jersey Royals are the only vegetable to have protected destination of origin status (PDO) – assuring their good quality and unique taste.
I find Jersey Royals something of an earthly delight: whether barbecued, boiled or in salads, they make for a delicious veggie side. Their sweet taste and crisp, waxy texture make them perfect for boiling and served simply with butter and mint: simple but very effective!
Their quick boiling time (around 10 minutes) and easy preparation (no peeling required) make for a great, hassle-free accompaniment to meat and fish dishes.
With the season stretching all the way up to June, there’s plenty of time to make the most of the crop. Here’s all you need to know about who’s growing the best Jersey Royals.
Robert Perchard’s Farm
Robert Perchard’s family have farmed on the island of Jersey for the past three generations, and what’s more, he can trace his Jersey ancestry back to the 12th century! You can’t really get much more ‘home-grown’ than that, can you?
Perchard’s crop grows on steep, south-facing slopes called cotils, allowing the potatoes to soak up the maximum amount of sun before they are hand-picked. Innovative farming methods also play a crucial role, as Robert notes: “We use a winch system that pulls a special digger up the cotils, gently turning the row so the staff are able to pick through the soft soil and gather up the potatoes.”
The farm is part of Jersey Royal Potato Marketing, a co-operative of five large growers and one marketing organisation, with the aim of turning production into a thriving industry. And as suppliers to such supermarkets as Morrisons, Perchard’s is clearly Jersey Royal aristocracy.
The Jersey Royal Company
Combining traditional production methods with some of the most up-to-date farming technology, The Jersey Royal Company grows over 1800 hectares of Jersey Royals every season. During peak season, it employs over 500 people who help to harvest around 25,000 tonnes of the “earliest genuine Jersey Royals” available every year.
This season, unfortunately, it’s been battling with nature in pursuit of the best: “We’ve been suffering from a seven-and-a-half-week drought, with no rain forecast for another week,” reveals William Church, commercial director.
The company’s use of local vraic seaweed as fertiliser is said to give the potatoes their unique, full-flavoured taste.
It has also developed a close working relationship with Jersey-based Michelin-Starred chef Shaun Rankin, who has created a range of mouth-watering recipe ideas such as this risotto with Jersey Royal Pearl potatoes.
And as the main supplier to leading supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Waitrose, and even smaller retailers such as Budgens and Lidl, chances are you’ve tasted one of these delicious potatoes already!
Philip le Maistre has benefited hugely from the steep slopes at Master Farm – and has gained him the credit of being the only farmer in the world who grows organic Jersey Royals.
Due to their sun-soaked location at the farm, the produce is packed with vitamin C and also provides a good source of potassium and vitamins B1 and B6 – all of which adds up to a rather satisfying spud!
A family business for over 60 years, Albert Bartlett is Britain’s leading producer of naturally grown potatoes and has been established in Jersey since 2007.
The company chose the site, a former dairy farm near St Helier airport, in order to reduce the time from the crop being picked to the potatoes ending up on our supermarket shelves – ensuring the Royals’ earthy, nutty flavour and sweet taste. The efficient process also maintains their smooth, crunchy texture, all lovingly planted and picked by hand.
Even though the company has only been growing potatoes in Jersey for a few years, Tim Ward, operations director, says the company’s heritage is what distinguishes it from competitors. “The history and heritage of our product is what makes us unique. We work with eleven independent growers with five generations of experience.”
Albert Bartlett supply Sainsbury’s and Asda across the UK as well as small independent retailers and 20 different regional wholesalers.
Any places we’ve missed?
Have we missed out a reigning Royal? If you know of any great Jersey Royal growers, share them with other lovefood.com readers using the comments box below.