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26.05.06
MPs looking forward to deliciously dirty menu

For the first time ever, Cornish Early new potatoes have made it to the UK's seat of power and are to be served to MPs and their guests at Westminster as part of a special menu event.

The little spuds, which are only grown in the far west of Cornwall, will be served up in one of Westminster's more formal restaurants, the Members and Strangers Dining Room, on Tuesday 6 June.

The event is taking place thanks to support from Andrew George, Member of Parliament for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives. He proposed the event to help boost awareness and appreciation for this speciality crop, which is only in season for around three weeks and kept 'deliciously dirty' until ready to cook.

"The Earlies are so tasty, I'm certain they'll tickle members' taste buds," says Andrew George MP, whose constituency covers the area where a majority of Cornish Earlies are grown. "Food and farming are such critical industries for the Cornish economy and the Cornish Early crop is a true speciality that should be arousing interest and passion way beyond our county border. I'm hoping this event will help lift the crop's profile and expand its market potential, as well as providing my colleagues with a very tasty lunch.

"Don't be surprised if there's even a market in the capital for the Cornish earth washed off these potatoes," added Mr George. "It could be much in demand for giving those Chelsea tractors that 'just back from the weekend' look!"

Around 72kg of Cornish Early potatoes, enough to feed around 300 people, are to be delivered to Westminster where Head Chef Lawrence Colmer will prepare them alongside Cornish monkfish and asparagus on Tuesday 6 June.

As well as being served in the Members and Strangers Dining Room, it's expected the Earlies will also be offered in the Terrace Café, one of the busiest self-serve restaurants in Westminster where MPs, staff and guests also eat.

"This is quite a coup for us growers," says Louise Reynolds, a Cornish Early grower from Gulval near Penzance. "It's one of our best tasting crops ever this season, so we're hoping it will go down well and we'll be asked back again next year."

Traditionally the very first new potatoes to be harvested in the UK, this year's Cornish Early crop has been delayed due to the unusually cold and prolonged winter weather. They are usually harvested from early April, but this year they just started coming out of the ground in mid-May.

Distinguishing characteristics of Cornish Early potatoes are the sweet taste, delicate dust-like skin and that it's sold 'deliciously dirty' to protect its texture until ready to cook. This year the potatoes are being sold in most major supermarkets in Cornwall as well as independent outlets, and chefs and shoppers are being encouraged to ask for them by name.

The Cornish Early website at www.deliciouslydirty.co.uk contains details on where the potatoes can be bought, as well as recipe ideas, information on local growers and a downloadable booklet.

Since 2003 Penwith District Council and Taste of the West Cornwall have been working with Cornish Early growers to develop branding and a marketing campaign to raise the potato's profile. The campaign involves 16 potato growers from Penwith and West Cornwall. This year the growers expect to harvest more than 500 acres of Cornish Early new potatoes, with an average yield of seven tonnes per acre expected over the three week season.

For more information please contact Veronica Newport at NPR on 01363 866927 or email: veronica@n-pr.co.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in Taste of the West and Organic South West (Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Martin Butler at Government Office South West on 01752 635134 before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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Editor's notes:


Penwith Business Centre, with support from Penwith District Council and Taste of the West Cornwall, is driving the countywide campaign to promote the Cornish Early new potato. The objective is to create a demand for the potato amongst trade (restaurants and hoteliers) and consumers, supporting the efforts of Penwith's producers and demonstrating the potential of the market for growth.

Taste of the West in Cornwall is a £5million Objective One gateway project, funded by the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and private matched funding. It is part of the Taste of the West regional food group. Taste of the West's Cornwall project includes a trade development programme, a marketing grant scheme and a capital grants scheme, available to small and medium sized food businesses which produce, sell or process foods in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. For more information log on to www.cornwalltasteofthewest.co.uk.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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