Back to the Veggie Box

Still life with vegetables

Since I’ve now been reunited with my kitchenware, cooking utensils and whatnot I thought I’d try to sort out a routine that enables me to eat a bit more adventurously and healthily. I’ve been a bit lazy in that regard over the last few years.

Many 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  from an organic supplier. The one I picked there was called River Nene who provided very good stuff all year around. When I moved to Cardiff I had to cancel the arrangement, and I remained predominantly inorganic while I was renting a flat there. 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 undertook deliveries of organic produce in the Cardiff area. I kept that up until I moved to Sussex. I did resume for a while when I returned to Cardiff in 2016 but the company changed the delivery arrangements suddenly and without telling me and I couldn’t use them anymore.

Anyway, I found a company called HarvestDay that provides a similar service here in Ireland that delivers fresh, seasonal organic vegetables direct from the farm to the customer. I decided to place a trial order to check them out before placing a regular order. The first box came this morning, delivered by a nice young man called Josh, and I am very pleased with it. Among other things there was a squash, Calabrese broccoli, spring onions and Cavolo Nero as shown in the picture.

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

First and foremost, organically grown vegetables fresh from the farm 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.

Some supermarkets do carry organic ranges but the prices are usually 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 lost respect for the seasons by virtue of the fact that you can get strawberries all year around in supermarkets. I think it’s good to celebrate the natural cycle of things by eating  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.. If you place a standing order for a small box of vegetables every week, 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 this sort of box arrives, it’s usually a mixture of staples plus things that are not so familiar, and often something I’ve 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. That’s why I get vegetables this way rather than going to a shop. It forces me to be a bit less lazy.

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. My practice is to eat the more perishable things first, then move onto the rest. If it looks like things are going to go off or be unused I usually chuck them into a vegetable curry, which can be frozen or eaten over several days. Spicy dishes improve with time.

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 years 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…

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