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Tesco Northern Ireland is pleased to announce that customers can enjoy locally grown leeks earlier than usual this year, as leeks from the Ards Peninsula will be back on shelves from Monday, the 18th of July, thanks to the advanced growing techniques of a local leek supplier.

Roy Lyttle has been supplying Tesco Northern Ireland with leeks since 1997 from his farm just outside Newtownards which he runs with his wife Sheila and their son Alexander, who looks after soil management and crop production.

Explaining the early return of locally grown leeks, Roy said: “As part of its drive to support local suppliers, Tesco Northern Ireland asked us to make every effort to have local leeks on shelves for as long as possible this year. 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 and for customers.”

Leeks used to be a winter vegetable, used primarily for stews and soups but sales of leeks in summer months have increased in recent years as consumers are inspired by cookery shows and cooking from other cultures. Leeks are in the same family as onions, shallots, garlic and scallions and have the same health benefits, however leeks tend to be less pungent and bring a delicate and sweeter flavour to dishes such as stir-frys, salads, gratins and sauteés.

Caoimhe Mannion, Marketing Manager, Tesco Northern Ireland said: “Leeks from the Ards Peninsula have been on the shelves of Tesco stores across Northern Ireland 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 will be available in all our stores from the 18th of July.”

Leeks featuring a distinctive ‘Grown in North Down by Roy Lyttle’ sticker are now available in Tesco stores across Northern Ireland.

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