Food & Drink

Plastic-free organic veg straight to your door

Happy Plastic-free July! How are you finding it? If you need some inspiration, one area to think about is vegetables.

Plastic packaging overload

You’ve probably noticed how hard it is to find unpackaged plastic-free veggies in supermarkets, especially in these COVID-19 times. Even the local green grocers can be a plastic-fest behind the scenes.

Of course, home growing is a nice idea but who really has the time to do this at scale? After months of care, your prized crop of whatever can fail, often without warning or obvious reason. Staying organic and keeping pests at bay are challenging too.

Box me up, Scotty

If you’re keen to go plastic-free in this zone but want to keep it faff-free too, there’s another, faaaaaar easier way: vegetable boxes.

Leave all the sowing, maintenance and harvesting to the pros. And get the lovely end products without any hassle. Guaranteed. A lifesaver if you’re time poor or no Monty Don!

Struggling to find a local scheme with availability, about a month ago I signed up to Riverford. Based in Devon, with sister farms in Peterborough and Hampshire, they deliver all around the south of England. There are 12 different types of fruit and veg boxes, most of which are available in three sizes. For the full range see here.

Isn’t it pricey?

The medium sized zero packaging box is £15.35. Unlike many other veg box providers, delivery is free so I’ve found Riverford to be the most reasonable costs-wise.

The medium box easily lasts the whole week for the two of us and it definitely works out cheaper than shop bought vegetables.

If your family is any bigger than four or if you’re all veggie fiends, you might want to opt for a large box.

How does it work?

You can sign up online to receive a weekly box or for a different duration. Or you can choose a one-off box.

You can swap box type as much as you like and can pause deliveries easily for no charge.

At the start of each week Riverford email to say what’s coming.

If you dislike certain vegetables or need to dodge any for dietary reasons, you can set up an alert. That way Riverford will tell you if any offenders are due to be in the box you’ve selected so you can swap to a different box.

At the moment Riverford don’t make substitutions but you can choose to build your own box instead, if that helps.

What sort of veg can I get?

I’ve only tried the zero packaging box and so far the variety has been impressive.

In week one we had kohlrabi which I’d never even heard of, let alone tasted. If you don’t know, it’s a large turnipy thing that tastes a bit like a radish (pic below).

You can eat the bulb part cooked or raw e.g. in coleslaw. It’s great in a peanut stirfry and also a vegetable stew with other root veg. You can also add the leaves and chopped-up stems so nothing’s wasted.

The zero packaging box often contains other unusual things like globe artichokes and rhubarb (anyone else think that was a fruit?).

The box also has loads of old favourites like carrots, peppers, broad beans, broccoli, onions, courgettes and lettuce. All just-picked fresh with a bit of soil to prove it.

The broccoli in my boxes, in particular, has been beautifully dark green and lush. Way nicer than the sad, yellowing specimens often seen in the supermarket.

What about the packaging and provenance?

Currently there’s only one zero packaging box available. Excitingly though, Riverford are on track to make all their boxes and packaging 100% plastic free by the end of 2020.

The boxes are made of sturdy, collapsable cardboard and are re-used up to ten times before they are recycled. When it rains, your box is covered with a large white plastic bag which is also re-used. As well as the box and bag, you can hand back any packaging to Riverford on your next delivery so they can re-use or recycle it.

80% of Riverford’s produce comes from the UK. They never air freight and have impressive environmental credentials, including for their own customer deliveries. For more info check out the website here.

Great for inspiration

If you’re bored with your meals and stuck in a bit of a rut, having a veg box could be just the thing to inspire you.

Getting a box is easier than starting from a “blank canvas”. You can just look up recipes that use the veg due to be in the box.

After a few weeks, you’ll then have a stash of tried and tested recipes. You can cycle through these again or mix and match, depending on what veg you get.

If you need any ideas, there are also loads of recipes on Riverford’s website and each box comes with some advice and options if you get stuck.

If you’re thinking of trying an organic, plastic-free vegetable box this July or any other time, I’d recommend Riverford.

If they don’t cover your area, I’m sure there’s another provider that does. If you use Riverford already or a different veg box supplier, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

I’d also love to hear about any new veggies you’ve tried due to the box that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself (like kohlrabi!).

Riverford fruit and vegetable boxes from £7.95 to £23.55, available online from www.riverford.co.uk

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