First Comber earlies in shops by June

Killinchy early potato grower Hugh Chambers (left) inspects a growing crop of Early Comber potatoes with Wilson's Country agronomist Stuart Meredith
Killinchy early potato grower Hugh Chambers (left) inspects a growing crop of Early Comber potatoes with Wilson's Country agronomist Stuart Meredith

Weather depending, the first of this year’s Comber Earlies will be ready for harvest around the beginning of June.

“It has been a very stop: go start to the planting season,” said Killinchy grower Hugh Chambers.

“I managed to get a few acres of Home Guard planted at the beginning of January. But it’s only over recent days that I have been able to get on with the rest of the work.

“The early planted crop is starting to come through the soil. It has now received its full fertiliser application and has been sprayed with a broad spectrum herbicide.

“The emerging plants were hit a little bit by the frost that we had in this area a week or so ago. But, in general terms, the crop is looking well and should grow on over the coming weeks.”

Hugh grows all his early potatoes for Wilson’s Country.

The company’s agronomist Stuart Meredith was a recent visitor to the Chambers’ farm.

“It has turned out to be a very late spring,” said Stuart.

“However, soil temperatures are starting to increase, which should allow growers throughout the Comber area to get on now with planting new season crops.

“Early potatoes are difficult crops to grow, mainly because the weather can be so unpredictable at this time of the year.”

Comber Earlies have always been regarded as a delicacy by local consumers.

Stuart Meredith again: “Early potatoes have a unique flavour. They can be quickly boiled in their jackets 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 a very satisfying manner.

“The reality is that people in Northern Ireland enjoy a dry, floury potato with plenty of taste.

“And as a leading potato packer this is a trend that we cannot ignore.”