Archive for October 19, 2008

The Veggiana Monologues

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19, 2008 by telescoper

I’m not a vegetarian, but I do like vegetables.

A f ew years ago when I lived in Nottingham I decided on a plan to increase the quantity and quality of the vegetables I was eating by ordering a weekly box of from an organic supplier. The one I picked there was River Nene who provided very good stuff all year around. When I moved I had to cancel the arrangement, and I remained predominantly inorganic while I was renting a flat here. When I finally managed to buy a new house and move in, though, I looked to reestablish the regular deliveries. I was pleased to find a company called River Ford, which is kind of affiliated to River Nene, and which undertakes deliveries of organic produce in the Cardiff area. I’ve been getting a box from them regularly for a few months now, and I’m very happy with the quality.

There are several reasons why I get my vegetables this way.

First and foremost, organically grown vegetables definitely taste far nicer than the bland varieties carried by most mainstream suppliers, including both supermarkets and local greengrocers. Once you’ve tasted how carrotty a carrot should be you’ll never want to eat one of those supermarket ones that look too orange to be true and have no flavour at all.  This applies not just to carrots but to most vegetables; fresh organic ones are so much better. Although, strictly speaking, they are not vegetables, organic mushrooms are particularly good. I often get the huge flat portobello variety which are absolutely delicious and are very easy to include in all kinds of dishes.

Some supermarkets do carry organic ranges but the prices are astronomical, and they are often shipped in from all around the world. That brings me to the second point which is that all (or virtually all) the vegetables I get in my weekly box are grown locally. They’re correspondingly fresh and the environmental impact of bulk transportation is also lessened.

Third, the nature of the scheme is that all the vegetables are seasonal. I think it’s quite sad that people have largely forgotten about the passing of the seasons by virtue of the fact that you can get strawberries all year around in Sainsbury’s. I think it’s have a bit more respect for the passage of time and enjoy the correct food when it happens to be ready. You wouldn’t want to have Xmas dinner every day, so why not be prepared to wait until October to eat fresh sweetcorn?  To every thing there is a season. There’s always something yummy to eat if you’re prepared to be imaginative with your cooking.

And that’s the final point. I have a standing order for a small box of vegetables every week costing about £10. The composition varies from week to week and with the time of year. The company does email and post on its website the contents of the following week’s boxes, but I generally don’t look at it. When the box arrives, it’s usually a mixture of staples (potatoes, carrots, onions, etc) plus things that are not so familiar, and that I’ve often never cooked before.  If it hadn’t been for the veggie box, I would probably never have found out about how to cook chard, romanesco, jerusalem artichokes and celeriac. I look forward to these surprises. Not knowing exactly what’s coming forces me to cook new things, and if I don’t know how to cook them there’s always google.

Of course, the summer salads and lighter things have now finished and, with winter coming on, there will be more root vegetables. I think the heavier vegetables tend to put some people off a bit, but there’s enough variety to keep it fun. Last week’s box contained a nice swede and leeks (of course, I’m in Wales) among other things, but I’m really looking forward to cauliflower and parsnips which should be ready soon.

Each box looks like a lot of food, but I always manage to eat most of it. I have to admit that not all my culinary experiments are successful, but more often than not I am pleasantly surprised. I tried curried beetroot a few weeks ago, with more than a little trepidation. It turned out to be absolutely delicious, even if I did have to ad-lib a bit with some of the ingredients. The only drawback was an unexpectedly colourful trip to the lavatory the next morning…

Anyway, if anyone is thinking of taking the plunge I’d thoroughly recommend them. You don’t have to buy vegetables the way I do it. You can do one-off orders or you can order specific things rather than set boxes.  They do meat and poultry too, but you have to buy a relatively large amount and I don’t eat enough meat to make it worthwhile. I also have a splendid butcher around the corner from me and tend to buy enough there to satisfy my carnivorous side.

I thought I’d break my own tradition and have a peep at what Tuesday’s box has in store. Here we go:cosmos potatoes, red onions, carrots, cauliflower, bunched beetroot, sweetcorn, butternut squash, cavolo nero

Hang on a minute. Cavolo Nero? For a moment I thought it was a black horse from Italy, but  a quick google and I learn that it is Black Kale. Sounds nice. The carrots are always tasty and as I’d hoped the cauliflower is coming through now. I thought the sweetcorn might be finished, but there’s more on the way apparently. Butternut squash is quite trendy these days.

And more beetroot. Ah well. At least this time I won’t think I’m suffering from internal bleeding.