Jersey Royal Potatoes - Ripley Farm Shop

FACT SHEET - Jersey Royal New Potatoes

The History of Jersey Royal New Potatoes

Potatoes have been grown in Jersey since the mid-eighteenth century with potatoes at this time competing successfully with parsnips as a field crop

By 1810 the once famous cider orchards had vanished from Jersey and growers were experimenting with exporting New Potatoes to England for the early summer trade due to their popularity

The Jersey Royal was first known as the Jersey Royal Fluke due to the circumstances by which it originated  A farmer called Hugh de la Haye hosted a dinner party at which he showed his friends two potatoes that he had been given. One had 15 eyes (from which new plants sprout) so he decided to plant them to see what happened. The following spring a crop appeared and whilst most were round, one crop produced kidney shape potatoes, soon to be known as the Jersey Royal

First arrivals of this new breed of potato arrived on the London markets in the 1880s  Tonnage grew and by the late 1890s, a usual crop export of Jersey Royals would be in the region of 60,000 tonnes!  Eventually the Jersey States Department of Agriculture ordered that no other variety could be exported for New Potato consumption other than the Jersey Royal  Today, the Jersey Royal is still the very first New Potato of the season and remains unique in taste and quality

In 1878 the market price for a tonne of Jersey Royal Potatoes was 140 shillings

The Jersey soil is light and well drained and many farmers still use seaweed harvested from Jersey beaches as a natural fertilizer (it is known locally as Vraic). Jersey has some of the most formidable tidal flows in the world, and the strong movement of the sea deposits large quantities of vraic on the shore. The practice of using vraic on the land dates back to the 12th century.

The Jersey Royal season begins in November with planting under glass. The main outdoor crop is planted from January to April with harvesting from the end of March through to the July. The peak of the season is May, when up to 1,500 tonnes of Royals can be exported daily.

Potatoes planted on the early slopes are hand lifted, with mechanical harvesters used only for the later, flatter fields. The fields on slopes near the coast - known as côtils - are so steep that almost all the work is done by hand.

Once harvested, the level of care continues at each stage. Jersey Royals are checked twice by workers and quality controllers before being packed and loaded into refrigerated trailers for export. The potatoes are harvested, graded, packed and shipped daily to ensure that consumers are buying them when they are at their freshest and finest.

Besides being unique to Jersey, the Jersey Royal enjoys EU protection of designation of origin in much the same way that France was granted sole use of the word 'champagne'. The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is an official recognition granted by the EU to protect the product as it is produced in its country of origin. In other words, if a batch of potatoes doesn't have the PDO it isn't the genuine article.