Comber Potato Festival 29th June 2013

 It has been quite a time for Comber spuds!   Just two weeks ago they were being served to the most powerful world leaders at the G8, including Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, and this week they were being honoured at the Comber Potato Festival (we hope the first of many)!
Fifth Generation farmer Martin Hamilton (Mash Direct, left)  and his two brothers David (top right) and Gavin Hamilton (bottom right) pictured working on their fathers farm in Ballyalton, Newtownards, 1962. 
What a success! The Comber Potato Festival was an amazing event with great music, vintage tractors and, of course, delicious food.  Mash Direct were there sampling as well as serving full meals in their Mash Bus as ‘Mashtonbury’ took on Glastonbury on the same day – we all know who the real winner was!
So what makes Comber so special to us?   The history of the Comber area is synonymous with potato growing and the Hamilton family.  Not only does the area have earliest spuds in the season, it is also thought to be the home of the earliest literary reference to potatoes in Ireland, dating back to 1606:
‘Her Ladyship also had farms at…Coiner [the old name for Comber]…both to supply new-comers and her house; and she easily got men for plough and barn…for which she gave them grass and so much grain per annum and an house and garden-plat to live on, and some land for flax and potatoes”.
Why do they come so early?  Sheltered by the Mourne mountains to the south, and the Ards Peninsula to the east as well as the protection from frost from Strangford Lough, the largest inlet in the British Isles.  This means that the growing season can start earlier than in other regions and consequently the harvest can too.  This has helped to earn Comber early potatoes European protected status, placing them alongside Cornish Pasties, Parma Ham and Champagne!
Martin, the Founder and Managing Director of Mash Direct, is a fifth generation son of the soil for Comber spuds and his two sons Lance and Jack make up the sixth generation so they know the fields well!  The Mash Bus in the Square, a state of the art mobile kitchen housed inside a double decker bus, proved to be a huge hit and just this week received a full 5 rating for the Score on the Door Scheme under the National Food Hygiene Rating System.  Look out for the bus in your town throughout the Summer as it will be sampling and selling their award-winning Comber potatoes!
Mash Direct don’t just sell their range from a double decker bus in Comber Square.  They are in supermarkets in the UK and Ireland as well as further afield in New York, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  World leaders were enjoying some Comber spuds at the G8 last week. At Mash Direct they want to make sure that they are available to them in their local shop across the world too!
Pictured R-L Fifth generation farmer Martin Hamilton (Managing Director, Mash Direct)  and his son Jack Hamilton(Sales and Digital Marketing Manager, Mash Direct) pictured outside Mash Direct’s double decker. Mash Direct were exhibiting at the Comber Potato Festival and raising awareness of their award winning Comber potatoes.