Comber Earlies - In Season

Comber Earlies.

There’s nothing quite like the first early potatoes to remind us that summer is just around the corner. Everybody loves them and in Ireland we’re especially fortunate to have a unique growing area in County Down, with the ideal soil and its own microclimate providing the perfect growing conditions for this early season treat.

Grown by the Comber Earlies Growers Co-Operative Society Limited*, these potatoes are now known throughout Europe since being granted an EU PGI (Protected Designation of Origin) status in 2012, which puts them in the same league as some of the world’s most famous foods including Feta cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies - and Jersey Royals, the renowned early potatoes from the Channel Islands.

Thanks to the EU PGI status, Comber Earlies can now compete with this long-established rival on something more like a level playing field. Also, because there are various conditions attached to the PGI status, authenticity is guaranteed and others risk prosecution if they try to trade unlawfully on its good name.

Only potatoes planted, grown and harvested within the protected geographical indicated area can be marketed as Comber Earlies, and only potatoes harvested in May, June and July are eligible for the status.

There is no actual variety called Comber - varieties grown include Home Guard, Dunluce, Accord, and Casa Blanca - the name refers to the general geographical area where the potatoes are grown.

The exceptional soil and climate found in the PGI area allows the farmers to grow this unique potato. Protection offered by the Ards Peninsula to the East and the Mourne Mountains to the South along with the South/ East location mean that the micro climate of the designated area is both warmer and drier than other parts of Northern Ireland. The area receives the greatest amount of sunshine, and has the longest mean growing season of any part of the province.

These unique characteristics of soil, climate and topography all work together to produce these fantastic potatoes with their earthy, sweet and nutty flavour- the much awaited taste of summer.

*The group of 12 representing the growers are: Richard Orr, Hugh Chambers, Stephen Christie, Trevor Davidson, Stephen Donnan, Ian Gilliland, Nathan Gilmore, Harry Hamilton, Garth Horner, Andrew Herron, Ivan McKee and John Hamilton. Together, the farmers in the designated area grow, pack and market their delicious Comber Earlies Potatoes.


Peter Hannan’s Himalayan Salt Aged Sirloin With Warm Comber Early Potato, Scallion & Horseradish Salad.Peter Hannan’s Himalayan Salt Aged Sirloin With Warm Comber Early Potato, Scallion & Horseradish Salad.

This simple dish takes just 15-20 minutes to prepare. Aside from the potatoes, County Down is the star here - the beef comes from The Meat Merchant in Moira and the recipe was created for the Comber Early Potato Festival 2014 by Danny Millar, executive head chef of Balloo House, The Parson’s Nose and The Poacher’s Pocket, all in County Down.

Serves 4.

2 x 12oz Peter Hannan’s salt aged sirloins
500g Comber Early potatoes, cooked and kept warm
1 bunch scallions
6 tablespoons good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon good horseradish
1 bag watercress
1 x pickled red onion

1. Season the sirloins on both sides and cook on a hot pan for 2 minutes on each side (for rare) and then leave to rest.

2. Mix mayonnaise and horseradish together and combine with the sliced Comber potatoes and scallions.

3. Check seasoning and place on serving plate.

4. Slice steak and place around potato salad. Drizzle over any juices from the steak

5. Garnish with watercress and pickled red onion


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