POTATOES OF NOIRMOUTIER ISLANDLAND THAT MAKES FOR A UNIQUE TASTE
On Noirmoutier Island, potatoes thrive in the particularly mild climate and the salty air. They grow in sandy earth, enriched by seaweed, which is where they get their unique flavour.
LAND THAT MAKES FOR A UNIQUE TASTE
The people of Noirmoutier have always made the most of the resources of the ocean surrounding them. But that’s not to say that they’ve neglected agriculture on the vast plains in the northern part of the island. That farmland is sheltered from the westerly winds and the frost in a large triangle situated between Noirmoutier, Le Vieil and L’Herbaudière. This land is special: lightweight and very sandy. In the autumn, the farmers collect seaweed from the beaches, that they then use to fertilize their fields. The unique flavour of Noirmoutier’s potatoes is said to come from the iodine in the kelp. According to tradition, potatoes are planted by hand at Candlemas and harvested 90 days later, in early May, as “new potatoes” – meaning the size of a thumb. To sample them, simply scrub them under water and brown them in butter.
Potatoes' field © Valérie Lanata
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
In the 1920s, a farmer brought a new variety of potato back from Barfleur in the Manche Department. It acclimated particularly well to the island’s sandy earth and would come to be called the Bonnotte.
Bonnotte of Noirmoutier
- The Bonnotte is only cultivated on Noirmoutier Island in small quantities. It only accounts for 100 of the 10,000 tonnes of potatoes harvested on the island.
The other species grown here are:
- the Sirtema, the earliest of the early, yellow with white flesh and a sweet taste. It can be eaten as soon as mid-April. It is the oldest of the varieties cultivated on the island;
- the Lady Cristl, the steamed potato par excellence;
- the Charlotte, yellow with firm flesh, harvested in June and known throughout France. Its flavour is strong and tender.
Early potatoes can be purchased at the island’s farmers’ markets or from the agricultural cooperative in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île.
A COOPERATIVE PROUD OF ITS LABEL
The 40 small-scale farmers on Noirmoutier follow precise specifications to maintain their production levels. Quality, safety and transparency standards – a process launched by the Noirmoutier cooperative – have been recorded in a set of agri-confidence guidelines to ensure yields of high quality potatoes. 300 tonnes are handled daily, and each potato is sent out on the same day as it was picked. A site wholly dedicated to the unique Noirmoutier potato.
THE BONNOTTE FESTIVAL: ONE HECK OF A POTATO!
For the last 18 years, on the first Saturday in May, the farmers of Noirmoutier celebrate with great pomp their most emblematic potato: the Bonnotte!
Planted at Candlemas and harvested 90 days later, in early May, it is only produced in Noirmoutier and then only in very small quantities. At the initiative of young farmers, this intense moment is marked by many activities. In the morning, you can pick your Bonnottes directly in the fields. In the afternoon, join a puzzle-filled treasure hunt by bicycle. The day ends with a typical Vendée dinner – Bonnottes, grilled sardines or Challans chicken, brioche and Fiefs Vendéens-Brem wines – plus a concert. Nearly 2,000 meals are served each year.
Shall we set your place at the table?