Cornish new potato growers are on course for a good season with favourable weather conditions putting them on track to be the first UK mainland potatoes to hit retailers this year.
The earliest Cornish new potatoes, due in May, have been growing under protective fleece and poly-sheets to protect them from the cold since January, and will be the first mainland English potato crop of the year to reach UK stores.
With warm weather scheduled to bathe Britain during Easter weekend, the season has got off to a good start. Cornish potatoes also benefit from the warmer maritime climate on the sloping fields closest to the sea, which keeps the area largely frost free.
Branston’s sales and marketing director, Sharon Affleck, says: “We work with selected farmers across Cornwall who have the expertise to work in harmony with the landscape, protecting it for future generations while getting the best out of their crops.”
“Our growers know where to plant first and they work in sequence across their land so that their Cornish new potatoes are the first fresh new potatoes grown in mainland UK to reach major consumer stores, each year.”
Sequential planting not only makes the most of the milder climate closer to the coast but also means that the potatoes are freshly harvested throughout the season and brought to stores in the shortest amount of time possible. They are harvested while the leaves are still green above the ground so the skins are thin and delicate.
“Of course, you can get Salad or Baby potatoes all year round now, but nothing beats the wholesome taste of freshly harvested Cornish new potatoes when they’re in season,” says Phil Rogers from West Cornwall, whose family has been working with Branston for more than 25 years.
“Some of our earliest crops are grown in the rich, fertile fields overlooking the sea. The milder sea air helps to keep frost at bay and enables the crops to get a really early start.
“As they’re growing we use natural seaweed extract to feed the plants and we monitor them really closely so that we can start harvesting as soon as they’re ready. They’re harvested while the plants are still green above the ground. This means that the skins are papery thin and they retain more their natural sweetness.”
Rogers grows Cornish new potatoes on some of the best land across Cornwall, from St Buryan to Newquay. His family have been farming in West Cornwall since the mid 1800s, with potato growing expertise passed down through generations. They’ve farmed at Pengelly Barton near Breage since 1967.
Cornish new potatoes are expected in Tesco stores in 750g packs and as a loose option both online and instore from around mid-June through to the end of August. They will be available to buy locally from June.
To inspire the general public and champion seasonal potatoes’ health, versatility and affordability, Branston has launched a consumer initiative; Seasonal Spuds. The dedicated website and social media channels host recipes for seasonal New potatoes, as well as competitions and information about the nation’s favourite vegetable.