The Genuine Jersey Royal Potato Growing Competition that celebrates the Island’s historic food culture launches this week as invitations to take part are sent to all the primary schools.
The annual event which sees primary school pupils, the Constables and Island media grow the Island’s premier crop in a bucket, is organised by the Genuine Jersey Products Association and supported by Belles Fleurs Nursery, and the States of Jersey Public Health Department and The Jersey Royal Company.
And this year the popular and hotly-contested competition will be even bigger as the Jersey Women’s Institute branches are competing against each other as part of the centenary celebrations of the movement nationwide.
The Chairman of the Jersey WI Maureen Bougeard said their involvement would make the competition a truly Islandwide and all-ages community event involving children, mums and grandmothers.
‘The WI has a reputation for being at the heart of local and community events and for cooking with local and seasonal produce so taking part in the competition is a brilliant way to celebrate our special anniversary and the world-famous Jersey Royal,’ she said, adding, with tongue in cheek: ‘Not that we are competitive at all so it is going to be great fun!’
The challenge is to see who can grow the heaviest crop and highest yield of the Island’s world-renowned potato. Schools also get to learn about the health-giving properties of a balanced diet based on fresh local produce when it is at its seasonal best.
Each competitor receives a growing kit comprising two Jersey Royal seed potatoes, polystyrene chips, compost and fertiliser – and a bucket to grow them in. All the competitors will be judged at the end of May, as part of the Jersey Food Festival.
Now in its ninth year, this popular highlight in the primary curriculum attracts more entries year on year. In 2014 6,850 pupils took part from all 32 primary schools between February and May, with Bel Royal growing the heaviest, JCG produced the most tubers with St Lawrence producing the best course work.
The Constables and media entries are judged in two categories: overall weight and the number of tubers grown. Last year the Constable of St Clement, Len Norman, grew the heaviest crop, while his St Saviour counterpart, Sadie Rennard, grew the most tubers. The media honours went to ITV Channel for the heaviest crop and Connect magazine for the most tubers.
The Chief Executive of Genuine Jersey Products Association, John Garton, said since the competition was first held in 2007, it had captured the imagination of young Islanders because it gives pupils a better understanding of how food is produced and to learn about Jersey’s agricultural industry.
‘We are delighted to welcome the WI and we hope their participation will increase the community element as parish branches, schools and the Constables compete against each in the friendly parochial rivalry that defines Jersey’s character. With every year, the competition gets bigger and better and we want this year to be fantastic celebration of the historical and cultural importance of the Jersey Royal and Island life,’ he said.
The Jersey Royal potato is one of a small number of fresh produce lines that have been granted a Protected Designation of Origin by the EU. This means only Jersey Royals grown in the Island can carry the Jersey Royal brand.
Depending on the weather during the growing season, the crop ranges from 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes per year. At the peak of production in May, up to 1,500 tonnes are exported daily, with pickers working long hours in order to get Jersey Royals on UK supermarket shelves in their prime.