You may have heard of Jersey Royal new potatoes, well in Scotland, we have Ayrshire New Potatoes.
Ayrshire, in south west Scotland provides the first potatoes of the Scottish season, often referred to as Ayrshire Earlies.
The light sandy soil, sheltered beaches and early warming by the Gulf Stream, enables farms in Ayrshire, particularly those along the Ayrshire coast, to plant their crop a few weeks earlier than in other parts of Scotland. Ayrshire Earlies should be available in the shops now (between May and the end of July).
Lessons learnt from Jersey
Normally potatoes are planted around June and harvested in October, right around the October school holidays (or tattie holidays), which for some rural school pupils, like myself, was spent in the tattie (potato) fields!
In 1857, two Ayrshire farmers (Dunlop and Hannah), visited the Channel Islands where farmers had been planting early crops for many years. They wanted to learn how they managed to grow potatoes like the Jersey Royals so early in the year. After a few years experimenting back in Ayrshire, they manged to grow and sell the first Ayrshire New Potatoes on a commercial basis.
The tasty tattie
They taste great! The Ayrshire New Potatoes have a distinctive strong earthy nutty sweet flavour and aroma. The texture is creamy but firm which makes them ideal for boiling and using in salads as they hold their shape well. The flavour of the Ayrshire New Potato is influenced by the light coastal soil, mild climate and the fertilisers used (traditionally seaweed and manure from livestock in the area). The potatoes are small and have a delicate skin, so are usually sold with the soil still on them to provide some protection. A quick brush under some cold water is all the prep they need before cooking.
Potatoes are considered a low calorie food as they are naturally low in fat and have a relatively high-water content (about 80%). Most of the energy they provide is in the form of starchy carbohydrates and so they are classed as a starchy food. This means they are grouped along with other starchy carbohydrate foods such as pasta and rice, rather than grouped with other vegetables, and so don’t count towards your 5-A-Day fruit and veg intake. I think this is a bit unfair, especially for new potatoes as they can make useful contributions to some nutrient intakes.
New potatoes can make a significant contribution to meeting daily vitamin C requirements. A large portion (220g) of boiled new potatoes provide just over 80% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. New potatoes also contribute to intakes of folate, vitamin B1 and B6, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc, as well as beneficial phytochemicals and fibre.
Ayrshire New Potatoes are guaranteed to be from Ayrshire
In 2019, the Ayrshire New Potato was granted Protected Geographical Status (PGI) which is an EU scheme that protects and promotes high quality traditional and regional food products unique to a geographical area. So, if you see Ayrshire New Potatoes for sale in shops, you can be reassured they will have been planted, grown and harvested within Ayrshire.
The last date that you’ll be able to buy PGI Ayrshire New Potatoes is the 31st July each year, so enjoy them now!
Gibson S and Kurilich AC (2013) The nutritional value of potatoes and potato products in the UK diet. Nutrition Bulletin. Available: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nbu.12057
Product Specification (for PGI Status) (2019) Available: https://consult.gov.scot/food-and-drink/aryshire-early-new-potatoes-ayrshire-earlies/results/specification-ayrshire-earlies---final.pdf
Weichselbaum E (2010) An overview of the role of potatoes in the UK diet. Nutrition Bulletin. Available: https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.knowledge.idm.oclc.org/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2010.01845.x