Leeks no longer just a winter veg thanks to new farming technology
A Co Down vegetable grower has invested in new growing techniques to get leeks onto supermarket shelves even earlier than usual.
Roy Lyttle has been supplying Tesco with leeks from his farm outside Newtownards since 1997.
He runs the farm with his wife Sheila and their son Alexander, who is in charge of soil management and crop production.
Their leeks will now be back on the shelves from July 18.
Mr Lyttle Snr said: "There used to be a gap of almost 18 weeks where leeks from Northern Ireland were not available and leeks had to be imported from overseas.
"With very careful planning, using south facing fields with light soils for early crops and covering the plants in fleece to speed up the growing time, we have been able to reduce the period of imported produce to just six weeks, which is great news for us, but more importantly for our customers."
Leeks have been regarded as a winter vegetable - but sales in the summer months have grown as consumers get more ideas from cookery shows and the cuisine of other cultures.
Caoimhe Mannion, marketing manager at Tesco Northern Ireland, said: "Leeks from the Ards Peninsula have been on the shelves of Tesco stores here for nearly 20 years and each year they increase in popularity, particularly over the summer months where sales were typically slower than in winter.
"Tesco Northern Ireland is passionate about sourcing the freshest Northern Irish produce and we are delighted that the great effort of our supplier has paid off and locally grown leeks are now available in all our stores."