Ever wondered how the potatoes in Supermarkets get there. What processes do they go through to get there? How are they so perfectly sized? (my own home- grown potatoes are mis-shapen and ugly!)
I was delighted when Glens of Antrim Potatoes invited me along to their premises to meet the team and find out all about their passion for potatoes. They are tucked away in a stunning setting on the outskirts of Cushendall, a beautiful part of Northern Ireland. I had no idea what to expect but was delighted to be greeted by their resident ducks (yes- really!)
I am no stranger to a factory floor, having spent many years working for Coca-Cola, so I wasn’t surprised when Ashlea from marketing handed me an overall, hairnet and hi-vis jacket. Not a good look for me but a small price to pay for a look behind the scenes.
Ashlea introduced me to Dean the production manager, a man who really knows his spuds! Dean happily led me round the facilities to show me the tender care they show their potatoes. From where they arrive, the washing process, how they are sized to where they are packaged, Dean was happy to show me every step of the process.
For me, the sizing process was fascinating. As consumers we are now used to seeing perfectly shaped, uniformly shaped potatoes. As a result, the irregular ones don’t make the grade. I never imagined that I would feel sorry for a potato but I found myself eyeing up a massive, ugly spud and wishing that I could bring it home to bake! Happily, Dean assured me that there is zero waste from the facility as any rejected spuds go to animal feed.
As well as the potato packaging, Glens of Antrim Potatoes are also showing innovation. Michael McKillop has managed to recreate the original Irish potato, the Lumper, also known as the famine potato. This was the the variety most widely grown in Ireland at the time of the Great Famine in 1845 – an ugly knobbly old potato that produced high yields in poor soil and which succumbed scourge of blight with disastrous results. The rest, as they say, is history. This new lumper is now avail on shelves and while not pretty, tastes good, cooked with skins on and served with butter.
I am a massive fan of Glens of Antrim sweet potato crisps and while they aren’t produced in Cushendall, I was delighted when Ashlea gave some to take away, along with a bag of Maris Pipers to sample, with a challenge to make something with them. (watch this space)
Next time you are in a store and contemplating the potatoes on offer- reach out and grab the Glens of Antrim packs, I can assure you that they have been much loved on their journey to the shelf!
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