Good Food Blog
Should I get a veg box?Posted at 3:02PM, 31 August 2011 by Rejina Sabur-Cross - Food writer
Veg box schemes have been around since the eighties but the past year has seen a sudden surge. Rejina Sabur-Cross finds out what all the fuss is about...
"We're constantly trialling and tasting different varieties, and not being hung up about cosmetic perfection really helps to avoid unnecessary waste," says Vitha Shepherd of Riverford, which currently delivers around 40,000 boxes a week.
"Previously the 'trend' was for organic, but now people are keen on staying healthy and supporting small, independent farms," says Claudia Ruane from Abel and Cole. "Our customers love the excitement of opening up their boxes on their delivery day. 'It's like Christmas every week' is the popular refrain. People tell us that not always knowing what's coming makes them far more adventurous in the kitchen, and they learn to love vegetables they previously wouldn't have bought. They relish the challenge of a new ingredient."
What of the lingering veg drawer of shame? Those mouldering carrots that end up shunned and alone every week.
But what about the cost?
Elly Curshen (co-founder of Bristol's Montpelier Basement) has been blogging about her recent veg box experiences from The Walled Garden.
"It's a very reasonable £10 per week and the quality of the produce, plus the fact that there's so much variety is fantastic," she tells me. "Having said that, it's hard to say if this is necessarily more economical as I couldn't have bought the same stuff for the same price, but then I probably wouldn't have spent £10 on veg in a week either (although I probably should!) We're not that great at planning as we're far too easily tempted by thoughts of restaurants and last minute inspiration for meals. So the veg box has forced us to actually plan our week out!"
So what are the drawbacks?
For Elly, it's having to store far more vegetables than usual. "Things have to be used according to which goes off quickest, and that's not always the order in which you fancy eating them," she says.
So what about these foods that we might not naturally gravitate towards? What of the lingering veg drawer of shame? Those mouldering carrots, pointed green cabbages or celeriac that end up shunned and alone every week?
"I ended up wasting the runner beans as I just never fancied cooking with them," admits Elly. She has plenty of creative ideas for other fare though. "I love pickling cucumbers and they're really quick. Sauces freeze well but I never get round to freezing them - they just get eaten! Curries and tagines are a great way to style up 'chuck it all in' veggie stews and also freeze well. Our new food processor has helped a lot. I made an awesome slaw in about two minutes by grating loads of veg, adding lemon juice, oil, chilli and mint. I also made a vegetable tart tatin, topped it with some lovage pesto I'd been given and made some purple mash too."
"Almonds, soy sauce, a couple of different nut oils, spices and dried herbs... with the right accessories you don't need much time at all to throw something delicious together," agrees Claudia. "We heard from a nurse once, whose shift pattern made it hard to cook from scratch during the week. So, on the day of her delivery, she cooked everything up in batches - in stews and soups then froze them in meal-sized portions for the rest of the week."
There are clearly some wonderful ways to see off those stubborn veg box remnants - adding courgettes to chocolate cake, making beetroot brownies with veg-averse little ones or crushing broad beans onto bruschetta.
So how do you like to get creative with yours? Or do you prefer shop-bought veg?