Comber Earlies on shelves following late start

Northern Ireland’s famous Comber potatoes are finally on the supermarket shelves following a later planting this year.

Known as ‘New Season Comber potatoes’ or ‘Comber Earlies,’ the vegetables were granted PGI status three years ago by the European Commission.

This means that only new season potatoes harvested from fields around Comber in County Down in Northern Ireland can now be marketed under these brand names. The potatoes are available from the beginning of June to the end of July and are the first available in Northern Ireland.

Due to a late planting this year due to bad weather the potatoes are just on the shelves and are already in big demand.

There are currently fewer than 20 Comber potato growers in Northern Ireland supplying the retail and foodservice sectors.

Comber Earlies have been grown since the early 17th century in Northern Ireland in an area dominated by Strangford Lough, the largest inlet in the British Isles, and a designated area of special scientific interest.

Angus Wilson who runs Wilson’s Country which markets the potatoes, said farmers were hampered by the terrible winter when planting spuds earlier this year. “Combers are normally planted in February, but the incessant rain and cold made for very low soil temperatures and delayed planting until St Patrick’s Day. While the potatoes are usually harvested during the first week in June, we’ve been delayed this year.

“Poor weather, especially frost, has had an impact on growing conditions, but we have worked very closely with our potato farmers to ensure there is a steady supply of Combers this summer so people can enjoy that first taste of summer as soon as possible.”

Hugh Chambers grows Comber potatoes to supply Tesco through Wilson Country. He said: “The potato is a sunny crop and the sunshine and heat during the month of May has really helped make up for the bad weather and allowed us get ready for harvesting for mid-June.”

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