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Chef Galton Blackiston celebrates the new season of Norfolk Peer potatoes

PUBLISHED: 12:23 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:31 09 June 2017

Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

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The Norfolk potato harvest is under way – hailed as a significant moment in the culinary calendar by one of the county’s top chefs.

Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Galton Blackiston, owner of the Michelin-starred Morston Hall hotel in north Norfolk, was in Breckland to collect some of the first Norfolk Peer potatoes of the season.

The sought-after variety grown by Swaffham-based Heygate Farms is already on its way to wholesalers in London, and 750g retail packs will be appearing in 100 regional Tesco stores next week.

This year’s crop will benefit from lower food miles, as the farm is using a packer much closer to home to retain the freshness and clear white colour which have made it a favourite among chefs including Mr Blackiston, who also uses Norfolk Peers in his No1 Cromer fish and chip restaurant.

“June heralds the month of new potatoes,” he said. “And the closer I am to the harvest time, the better.

Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

“We use masses of Norfolk Peers at No1, and at Morston Hall it is expected that I am going to be using these when they are first offered to us.

They are brilliant really. For me, they are a much better flavour than Jersey Royals.

“What interests me is the flavour. It is pretty unique. I think it tastes like a potato my parents used to grow 50 years ago in the garden. You could just rub your thumb across it and the skin would just fall off, and this is reflected in the flavour.”

Mr Blackiston said he will be preparing a dedicated Norfolk Peer potato dish for diners at Morston Hall, adding: “It will be a testament to the Norfolk potato. We will use the tiniest potatoes, crushing a few of them, and serving them with mint oil and butter. You don’t need too much, we just want people to taste the potato.”

Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 Chef Galton Blackiston visits Heygate Farms to see the first Norfolk Peer potatoes being harvested with farm manager William Gribbon. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

This will be the fifth season of Norfolk Peers at Heygate Farms, where about 1,000 tonnes will be grown on a staggered planting schedule, to ensure fresh produce is always available to meet demand throughout the growing season, from June to September.

Farm manager William Gribbon said freshness was a key factor in moving the packing operations to a company in Breckland.

“That is why we have gone with a different packer, to shorten the food miles and get fresher product quicker into the supermarkets,” he said. “Two or three hours after a potato is taken out of the soil it starts to dull up and grow a second skin. So the quicker you can lift, wash, pack and distribute them, the better the quality of the potato will be.

“I think Galton does appreciate quality, and for a Michelin-starred chef to appreciate the attention to detail and the quality of our products makes us very proud at Heygate Farms.

“He has been on TV with them and he has pushed them in his restaurants and given us publicity in magazines and with other chefs. It is getting the Norfolk Peer name out further, using Galton as an ambassador for Norfolk produce.

“I think it is important that there is a story behind it, and that it is not a fictitious farm. It is a real product and people can relate to the Norfolk Peer because they know it has come from the Eastern region.”

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