Tesco Northern Ireland is stealing a march on its rivals by stocking the first crop of new season Comber potatoes next week.
Comber Earlies, as they are known, will be in five Tesco stores from Tuesday – and in all Tesco stores across Northern Ireland by the end of next week.
Potato grower Hugh Chambers, who is supplying Tesco with the Combers via potato company Wilson’s Country, has managed to grow a healthy crop of the spuds in a sheltered area at his farm on Reagh Island on the shores of Strangford Lough.
He explained: “We normally dig our Combers in the last week of May but there has been a slight delay this year because of a lack of sunshine and heat, however they are now ready to be harvested.”
Caoimhe Mannion, Tesco’s Marketing Manager in Northern Ireland, said: “The fabulous flavour of Comber Earlies is loved across the whole of Northern Ireland and beyond and we are delighted to be first to market with them this year.”
The uniqueness of the potato grown around the town of Comber in Co Down has earned it Protected Geographical Indication status in Brussels. PGI is awarded by the European Commission to protect and promote named regional food products that have a reputation or noted characteristics specific to an area.
Joanne Weir from Craigavon-based Wilson’s Country said: “Poor weather, especially frost, has had an impact on growing conditions but we have worked very closely with Hugh to ensure consumers can enjoy that first taste of summer as soon as possible. We are also working with other growers to ensure there is a steady supply of Combers this summer.”
Comber Earlies can only be grown in an area which stretches from the town of Comber to the Ards Peninsula and close to Crossgar, Killyleagh, Saintfield and Carryduff in Co Down.
The seed tubers of the potatoes are planted in drills from early January or as soon as conditions allow. This is much earlier than elsewhere in Northern Ireland where planting of second early and main crop varieties does not usually take place until the end of March or later. The tubers are normally harvested between the last week of May and the end of July.