First Comber earlies – digging starts a full month later than normal

This week marks the start of the Comber Earlies’ harvest. But it’s a full month behind schedule.

“We have the very cold Spring, which extended right through April, to thank for this,” said Lewis Cunningham, manging director of Wilson’s Country.

“Planting was extremely late this year and the cold weather, which followed, severely hampered crop growth rates.”

Digging of First Earlies got underway on the Comber farm of Hugh Chambers this week.

“The recent spell of good weather has helped to bring crops on immensely. Yes, we are a full month later than normal in getting potatoes out of the ground. But, the good news for consumers is that crop quality is very promising.”

Hugh grows all his early potatoes for Wilson’s Country. The company’s agronomist Stuart Meredith is a regular visitor to the Chambers’ farm.

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

“However, soil temperatures started to increase, once we got into the month of May.

“Early potatoes are a difficult crop 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. 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.

Stuart Meredith again:

“PGI status officially sets Comber Earlies apart as a unique product with distinct eating characteristics.

“This extremely welcome development gives the local potato industry a tremendous opportunity to further promote the qualities of these unique potatoes. And Wilson’s Country will be playing an active role in this regard over the coming weeks and months.”

He added:

“New potatoes 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 of course that people in Northern Ireland love their spuds and especially that new season flavour of Comber earlies.

Picture: Wilson’s Country chairman Angus Wilson (left) and company agronomist

Stuart Meredith assessing new season crops in North Down. Initial digs

would indicated that yields of varieties such as Dunluce and Home Guard

are well over a third down on normal. This is because of the current dry

spell and the very cold, wet conditions at planting.