Jersey Royal Potatoes

Dateline: 22 September 2011

In my previous blog post, I mentioned the current newsletter from Wood Prairie Farm up in Bridgewater, Maine. Some of you may have clicked on the link and found your way to Jim Gerritsen's mention of Jersey Royal potatoes as seen in the following YouTube film clip…

If you enjoy gardening, you'll enjoy learning about some of the UK gardeners and growers in that film. But at 23 minutes in, the subject of growing Jersey Royal potatoes on the Channel Island of Jersey is discussed.

The Jersey Royal is a small, thin-skinned, kidney-shaped potato that is traditionally grown on steep slopes. The potato is not grown across the slopes, as you might think, but straight up and down. 

These steeply sloped fields are known as côtils. Côtil is a Jersey Legal French word, which is to say that it is unique to the island of Jersey. 

Working a potato côtil on the Isle of Jersey

The original name of the potato was Royal Jersey Fluke. It was discovered and propagated in the late 1800's by a Jersey farmer. You can read the story Here.

If you watch the movie above, you'll see Jersey Royal potatoes are dug by pulling a digger from the bottom of the côtil to the top using a winch and cable. That's kind of neat.

Another unique thing about these potatoes is how they are propagated. The seed potatoes are carefully selected, arranged in wooden stacking trays, and sprouted, then planted by hand. The stackable trays really caught my eye.

If you find all of this as interesting as I do, you'll want to watch the following YouTube movie too. It shows in more detail how the seed is packed in those nifty trays, on a commercial scale, and prepared for planting. You'll also see that not all the Jersey Royals are grown and harvested on steep côtils.

I'll probably never get to taste a genuine Jersey Royal potato. But I've tasted plenty of young, thin-skinned, just-dug potatoes from my own garden, and I can't imagine a potato tasting any better.


P.S. Most people like to grow big potatoes but if a Jersey Royal gets bigger around than 50mm (2 inches), consumers don't want them. This Article  tells of how up to 50% of the Jersey Royal crop this year was a failure because it grew too big for market.


CMRS said...

Thank you for the wonderful info you provided in this post. The videos especially opened my eyes to parts of the world I'd never heard of before.

Mike Armitage said...

But why are Jersey Royals no longer kidney shaped? I used to work as a greengrocer in the 70s and 80s and the pitiatoes I buy today do not look or taste like they did then.