First Comber Earlies set for supermarket shelves

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Fred Searle

BY FRED SEARLE

First Comber Earlies set for supermarket shelves

Early Northern Irish variety is ready for sale, with quality described as ‘excellent’ by packer Wilson’s Country

First Comber Earlies set for supermarket shelves

Wilson's Country MD Angus Wilson

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The first New Season Comber Earlies have been harvested and are ready for sale, according to Northern Irish potato packer Wilson’s Country.

The early variety, produced by fewer than 20 farmers in the Comber/Strangford region of County Down, is one of only three Northern Irish foods to have achieved EU Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) status.

Wilson’s Country now supplies the product to major UK supermarkets, describing the quality of this year’s crop as “excellent”.

“It’s been a great growing season this year for the earlies, with plenty of sunshine over the past few months and just the right amount of rainfall to provide the necessary moisture while maintaining the distinctive texture,” said managing director Angus Wilson.

He added: “There’s quite a bit of interest in the earlies. We’ve had a number of new requests for the potatoes this year. Indeed, overall interest in potatoes among the general public and foodservice is strengthening.”

Harvested in June and July, the Comber Early is the first potato of the season to be picked in Northern Ireland’s County Down. The short growing season, which usually runs for around six weeks, means the crop can be expensive to grow and must usually be cultivated under plastic.

New Season Comber Potatoes were granted PGI status in 2013, with the EU recognising the Comber/Strangford region’s unique micro-climate and growing conditions. Sandy soil, an absence of frost and a long growing season of more than 270 days are its key features.

The product’s PGI status means that only new season potatoes harvested from fields around Comber in County Down can now be marketed as ‘New Season Comber Potatoes’ or ‘Comber Earlies’.

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