Potato consumption has boomed on the back of the home cooking experiences enjoyed by so many thousands of people in homes across Northern Ireland over the last number of months. And the expectation is for this very welcome trend to gain even greater momentum, once new season crops for 2021 are available.
But the potatoes have to be grown first. So it will come as good news that the last week has seen the planting of first earlies getting under way in earnest throughout in their traditional heartland area of Comber and North Down.
Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith takes up the story: “Weather depending, the first of this year’s Comber Earlies will be ready for harvest around the beginning of June. Varieties planted over the past week or so include Home Guard, Accord and Dunluce.” Stuart made these comments while on a visit to the Newtownards farm of William Gilmore.
“Our land has dried up remarkably well over recent days,” William explained. “Planting seed potatoes can be a bit of a lottery. It’s all about the weather. If we get an early spring, then it is possible to get seed into the ground before the end of February. “Some years, though, have seen us planting first earlies in mid-April.
“Assuming a normal growing season, we should be digging the first of this year’s new season crops by the end of May or early June.” He continued: “The tremendous resurgence in consumer demand for locally grown potatoes has been a very welcome development.
“Hopefully, this momentum will be maintained throughout 2021 and beyond. Potatoes are a very expensive crop to grow. Northern Ireland is home to many of the best potato growers in the world. “The quality of their produce, which is available in local shops throughout the year, is testimony to their skill, commitment and expertise.”