Published online: Jan 23, 2007
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The Asda supermarket chain unveiled its latest high-tech method for improving the shelf life of potatoes and carrots - good old-fashioned mud.

It has started selling potatoes and carrots still covered with mud from the farmer's field after experts discovered it can make each vegetable store for twice as long.

Shelf life tests showed that unwashed potatoes and carrots can last up to three weeks longer than their washed equivalents.

The mud acts as a natural preservative, preventing light from reaching the surface of the vegetable and helping to keep it cool. Leaving the vegetables unwashed also cuts production costs, making muddy potatoes and carrots up to a third cheaper for customers.

"Food scientists around the world have spent decades searching for ways to preserve these vegetables - and yet we were standing on the answer all along," Asda fruit and vegetable spokesman Andy Jackson said.

"Muddy potatoes and carrots may not look as pretty as washed ones, but they taste just as good, and cost a lot less to buy."

Asda said the weight of each bag is adjusted so that customers pay just for the vegetables and not for the mud.

Sales of unwashed potatoes have jumped 20 percent since they were introduced in December. The Asda move is one of those back to the future decisions.

Potato production in Britain almost a century ago saw potatoes stored for long periods in huge muddy pits in the ground, before being sold unwashed from Hessian sacks.

Jackson said that 20 years ago Asda couldn't have sold muddy potatoes and carrots - no one would have wanted to buy them.

"Now, we've gone full circle," he said. "Customers today demand quality and value more than good looks - which means we can re-introduce old vegetable preserving methods."