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Denis Kilcommons: Jersey Royals the debate continues

Jersey Royal potatoes are not as tasty as they used to be, I said and lots of readers agree.

Chats

Jersey Royal potatoes are not as tasty as they used to be, I said.

Lots of readers agree and several said the problem was that the farmers on the island no longer use seaweed as fertiliser.

“Blame the EU,” they said. “They banned it.”

Actually, they didn’t. The story is a European Union myth.

Ian Cleave holidayed in Jersey last year and raised the question of taste.

“Our guide agreed the special taste had been partially lost because they are now grown under plastic.”

Terence Wilkinson, of Mirfield, said: “I was under the impression that, in the past, a type of seaweed was used as fertilizer and this had ceased to be used for economic reasons. Therefore, the present lack of flavour.”

Doris Smith, of Newsome, is 82 and has enjoyed Jersey Royals for longer than most. She agrees the taste changed when seaweed was no longer used because it became too expensive.

Geoffrey Hodgson, of Moldgreen, said he heard on the radio 25 years ago that Jersey potatoes produced for export were no longer grown the traditional way.

Even the readers of the Jersey Evening Post have complained in the past that they don’t taste the same.

“When I was young, Royals were not forced under plastic,” wrote one. “Good old seaweed was collected in copious amounts and laid on the fields. This gave the Royal its unique taste which, it seems, is long gone.”

The famous potato has been grown on the island for 130 years. The crop now has a £30m annual turnover.

Traditionally, growers used seaweed – known locally as vraic – as fertiliser but Francois le Maistre, from the Jersey Royal Potato Association told the BBC in 2010 that the practise had started to die out years ago.

Jersey’s Agriculture and Fisheries Committee tried to promote its use again by employing a contractor to gather it on the beach to supply farmers. It was still used on some farms but not on a wide scale anymore.

Shirley Shaw, of Linthwaite, suggests the way to get the best flavour from Jerseys is to put them straight into boiling water to cook, rather than cold water.

But I think I may look for an alternative spud.

Geoffrey Hodgson suggests Lincolns are just as good, if not better, as are Cornish varieties. Personally, I like Charlottes, but I shall try others to see if any can compare to that exquisite royal taste of the past. In the meantime, I’ll make the best of the Jerseys I have by slicing and pan frying them as chats.

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