Jimmy Doherty reveals why the humble root veggie - the potato - deserves to be star of the show
“The Jersey Royal is an iconic food item and something we should celebrate,” the 40-year-old enthuses of his collaboration with the seasonal spud.
“If the Italians or French had this, they would be going on about it all the time.”
Since taking on a 100-acre farm more than 10 years ago, which was famously documented in BBC Two series Jimmy’s Farm, Doherty has made a name for himself in the world of TV, appearing in shows including Food Unwrapped and Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, with childhood friend Jamie Oliver.
Add to that three books and a number of free-range food products, and it stands to reason that he’s the ideal patron to champion the unique Jersey crop - or as he dubs it, “the Champagne of potatoes”.
“As a kid, having Jersey Royals with your spring lamb was pretty important,” he muses. “I’m a big believer in seasonality.”
Available from April until the end of June, Jersey Royals’ Protected Designation of Origin status means its five-generational farmers use 130-year-old techniques to ensure their nutty flavour, creamy consistency and flaky skins.
“I visited Jersey, and I arrived thinking, ‘I’m used to farming in the British Isles’, but I’ve never seen it like that before,” admits Doherty. “They’re all crackers, and the fields they hand-plant their crops on - cotils - are steep, so the planters have to be winched up!”
Delivered to supermarkets within 48 hours of being gathered up, the TV foodie is also a firm believer that these potatoes - and other varieties - should be a diet staple.
“We forget potatoes are full of vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre, and we’re moving to other carbohydrates like rice and pasta,” he says. “We should go back to eating lots of potatoes.
“It’s about portion control, that’s all,” he adds, in response to any spud critics, and the father-of-three certainly practises what he preaches at home.
“The simplest way [to serve Jersey Royals] is freshly dug with butter, but I use them for my kids all the time as mini roast potatoes. Rather than peeling and chopping, I just put them straight in the roaster and they love them.
“My kids get excited about food. Understanding where food comes from is a very natural part of their life, and it should be the case for everyone.
“I wish we could emulate what Jersey does,” he continues. “If all of the schools [across the UK] were excited by Jersey Royal season, and did little competitions where they grow the potatoes, it would show pride and respect for the environment.”
It’s an ethos he looks to implement at Jimmy’s Farm, which today boasts a nature trail, butterfly house, award-winning restaurant, science and food festivals - and a zoo licence in the pipeline.
“It never ends!” Doherty admits, laughing. “There are 30 full-timers, and I’ll tell you what, dealing with pigs is a lot easier than dealing with people!”
When he’s not running the land, the star feels lucky to be dipping his toe in the world of showbiz - and even luckier, on occasion, to be doing so with good pal Oliver.
“We muck around and get told off because we talk rubbish,” he reveals of his time filming Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast. “We’ve never grown up, but it’s fun.”
Next up, he’s pleased to be hosting a show that will see him travel to all corners of the globe, in search of people who’ve swapped the rat race for the wilderness - a concept that takes him back to the topic of sustainability.
“Without food producers and regular supply in our supermarkets, where would we be?”