Alexander Wilson, fourth generation potato grower

Fourth-generation potato grower Alexander Wilson

Scotland's first new potato crop of the year, Ayrshire Earlies, are arriving in Tesco stores north of the border from this week.

Supplied by Branston, the PGI-awarded potatoes will only be available locally, sold in Tesco stores across Scotland in 750g packs and as a loose option online and in stores until the end of July.

Ayrshire is one of the most productive agricultural regions of Scotland, with a milder climate driven by the Gulf stream from the long coastline along the Firth of Clyde.

Four generations of the Wilson family have farmed in the coastal area for more than 130 years, passing the land down from generation to generation. Their Ayrshire Earlies are traditionally grown on a narrow strip of sandy soil that is just a few metres above the high tide line.

Because the area remains largely frost-free, they can plant as early as February. This year saw plenty of sunshine and the west coast still got some much-needed rain during April and May, according to Branston, while the potatoes were bulking up beneath the ground.

Throughout spring the crops are carefully checked so that they can be harvested as soon as they reach the right size. The first small load is often harvested by hand, as they are particularly delicate.

Lucia Washbrook, sales and marketing director at Branston, which operates a site in Perthshire, said: “We know that people love fresh locally-harvested potatoes and we have brought these to store as quickly as possible, which is one of the major appeals of seasonal potatoes for shoppers.

“As soon as the potatoes reach the right size, they are harvested and packed at our site in Perthshire to ensure an incredibly fresh taste that people have come to love.

“These are proper new potatoes - harvested while the leaves are still green above ground and the immature potatoes have a thin and fluffy skin. They have to be handled very gently like this and are best eaten while they’re really fresh.”

To signal the start of the Ayrshire new potato season, the Seasonal Spuds initiative has developed six new potato recipes, which can be found on the campaign website. Shoppers can share their recipes and ideas by uploading images to social media, tagging @seasonalspuds and using #AyrshireNewpotatoes and #SeasonalNewpotatoes.