New season Comber Early Potatoes now in Northern Ireland stores

Leading Northern Ireland potato packer Wilson’s Country has harvested the first of their Comber Earlies for sale in supermarkets this week. Among farms producing the new potatoes which have been accredited as one of Northern Ireland’s EU PGI products is Killinchy based early grower Hugh Chambers .

Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith joined grower Hugh Chambers, a county Down farmer, as the harvesting work got underway.

“The recent warm weather, which was preceded by heavy rain, has encouraged tremendous growth within all potato crops,” Stuart explained.

“As a result, growers are digging earlies this year at around the same time as was the case in 2020. Back in May, crops were at least three weeks behind where they normally would be.”

Dunluce is the main early variety grown by Hugh Chambers. He also grows the variety Accord, which will be available later in the season. This year’s crops were planted out during the first week of March.

“The crops look extremely healthy,” Hugh added. “Trial digs indicated that the dry matters of the potatoes are high, meaning that eating quality should be very good. “It’s too early to tell yet what overall yields will be like.”

Hugh Chambers grows early and main crop potatoes as part of the overall arable rotation followed on the farm.

Potato consumption has boomed on the back of the home cooking experiences enjoyed by so by many thousands of people in homes across Northern Ireland over the last number of months.

This trend may well give a further boost to the traditional demand for Comber earlies at this time of the year.

The iconic potatoes have always been regarded as a delicacy by local consumers. This has been officially reflected in the attainment of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for these unique potatoes under an EU scheme which promotes and protects names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs.

Wilson’s Country managing director Lewis Cunningham continued: “Comber Earlies will retain their PGI status. This will continue to set them apart as a unique product with distinct eating characteristics from Northern Ireland.

He added: “Early potatoes have a unique flavour. They can be quickly boiled in their skins and enjoyed as part of a main course or included in salads.

“Consumers want to get back to basics and potatoes allow them to do this in very satisfying manner.”

Stuart Meredith, agronomist at Wilson Country, Craigavon, county Armagh, left, pictured with Hugh Chambers harvesting New Season Early Potatoes on his farm in county Down.