Are you eating your Comber potatoes the right way?

Richard Orr, chairman of Comber Earlies Growers' Association, with Alderman Bill Keery, mayor of Ards and North Down
Richard Orr, chairman of Comber Earlies Growers' Association, with Alderman Bill Keery, mayor of Ards and North Down
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With the annual Comber Earlies Food Festival about to come to the boil, it has been pointed out that some people are making a common mistake when eating the famous Co Down spud.

Ahead of Saturday’s event Richard Orr, chairman of Comber Earlies Growers’ Association, said: “The growers would say that the best way to eat your Comber potato is to steam them with the skins on. You don’t peel a Comber Early, it’s a common mistake that people make.

“You serve them with the skins on with a knob of butter and a bit of salt and pepper. It’s pretty basic, but it gets the best flavour from them.”

After PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status was granted for Comber Earlies in 2012 the growers’ association was formed.

Mr Orr said: “The co-operative means we all market our potatoes under the one brand.

“Comber doesn’t refer to a variety of potato. It’s where they’re from.

“The PGI status gave us a designated area (around Strangford Lough).

“You can only grow potatoes within the designated area and you can only do it in May, June and July. The rest of the time they’re not Comber Earlies.”

Comber potatoes are linked with Ulster-Scots planters the Hamiltons and Montgomerys who had lands around Comber, Greyabbey and Newtownards within the PGI area.

Mr Orr said: “What makes the spud special is their flavour. Around Strangford Lough there is what’s like a microclimate.

“We have Triassic sandstone soil which is very gravelly, it leaves the land, open, free draining and a lot warmer during the winter months.

“All those things come together with the husbandry the growers would use to really try and maximise on the flavours of the potatoes.”

Mr Orr said that the potatoes were rarely exported, mostly being enjoyed in Northern Ireland and occasionally making their way south of the border.

The Comber Earlies Food Festival takes place on Saturday from 10am to 4pm in The Square and St Mary’s Church car park in Comber.

Organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council in partnership with Comber Earlies Growers’ Association and Food NI, the festival will feature activities for all the family plus a range of artisan foods from 30 local producers.

There will also be an opportunity to better your culinary skills with celebrity chef James Tanner who will provide cooking demonstrations.

Meanwhile, a week-long Comber Earlies Fringe Festival, which has been organised by the Comber Regeneration Partnership Community in support of the festival, runs until Tuesday.