Jersey Royals Are Wonderful Early Tasty New Potatoes Grown In Jersey. They Have A Rich & Unusual History That Started With 15 Eyes! Read More Here.

Growing Jersey Royals goes back to 1880 (some sources say 1878). Before then they didn’t exist. But before I explain why, let me tell you more about these wonderful potatoes.

Growing Jersey Royals
Man vyi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jersey Royals are grown on the island of Jersey and 99% of them are exported to England. They are very thin skinned and are eaten as a very early potato. Being an early the yield is not high but the lower yield is made up for by the flavour and the fact that early potatoes make more money per kilo than later crops.

Today the Jersey Royal is a protected by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). It’s protected in the same way as Champagne, many wines, Puy Lentils, and Parma ham. PDOs cover products such as wines, cheeses, hams, beers, fruits, sausages, olives, breads, vegetables and animal feed.

The Jersey Royal is an International Kidney type of potato. The name is a shortened version of Jersey Royal Fluke. Because it only came into existence by luck. It was a fluke!

The History Of The Jersey Royal

It was in 1880 or just before that history records Hugh de le Haye as dining with friends and producing a huge potato, with 15 eyes, at the end of the meal. As an experiment they cut the potato up into 15 pieces, each with an eye, and grew them on the steep sided côtils above Bellozanne Valley.

The following spring each of the cut tubers produced a crop of potatoes. All were early and looked just like the other potatoes then grown on Jersey. All except one. One plant yielded a crop of rather unusual small kidney shaped potatoes.

These small potatoes had paper thin skins and tasted good. So rather than eat them all they planted what remained and over the next few years bulked up the numbers until they could grow a commercial crop. Hugh de le Haye shared the crop, then names Jersey Royal Fluke, with fellow farmers and the rest is history. Jersey Royals now account for around half the islands agricultural income. They are worth around £29million per year. Demand has decreased slightly in recent years and the growers have cut back on production to ensure they remain financially viable. But with production around 30,000 tons it is still a huge crop for a small island.

Growing Jersey Potatoes

Jersey is a small island with its famous côtils, south facing cliff edge fields, where much of the very early crop is grown. The land is so steep that tractors can’t be used and I’ve written more about the cultivation method on a post entitled Jersey Côtils: An Ancient Growing System.

The very early crop is planted in January, many by hand, with the hand lifted harvest from April. They are lifting the crop just when most of us in the UK are planting ours .. or thinking about it!

It is claimed by many farmers on Jersey that wheat gives Jersey Royals their special flavour is the use of vraic as a fertiliser. Vraic is the seaweed, gathered on local beaches after storms, and spread on the potato fields.

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Tag: Growing Jersey Royals
Photo Attribution: Man vyi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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