Size Does Matter – These Veg Boxes Are Definitely Shrinking

Sweetcorn

The veg of the week are: • Cabbage • Beetroot • Carrots • Sweetcorn
Parsnip • Courgette • Potatoes

Lonely Veg

It’s always good to have something different in the veg box and this week’s ‘something different’ is a lonesome parsnip and a lonesome courgette. Neither are particularly sizable and they were in too much of a sorry state to be photographed.

Separated in the box by a small bag of spuds and two cobs of sweetcorn, they couldn’t even enjoy companionship on the journey to my doorstep. The lonely nature of these vegetables draw attention to something I’ve noticed over the past few months.

Size Does Matter

When I started getting the boxes, they contained eight types of veg, each of good size and quantity. Over the last few months, I have been getting seven types of veg of random size and quantity. As my year of veg boxes is a competition prize, I’m not complaining, but if I was paying for the boxes I would be quite peeved.

Don’t Blame it on the Season

I understand that different seasons bring different quality and quantity of veg, but in the earlier months of my veg-box year, any shortfall was made up with things you can grow anytime, anywhere, such as boxes of beans sprouts and more recently, the Living Salad.

What I don’t understand is why the supplier hasn’t said anything. They put a newsletter inside each box after all so there it wouldn’t cost them any more to communicate any issues.

I guess that this is one of the issues with a veg-box scheme where you don’t get to choose the contents. I do like the randomness of these boxes as you get to try things that maybe you wouldn’t normally. However, if I chose the contents, it’s likely that I would stick with the same things all the time, which can get boring and limit nutrients. There are plenty of other schemes that will give you choices of veg that are in stock, so you should always get a fair quantity that way. Well . . . that’s the theory.

Food For Thought

As I get nearer to the end of my veg-box year (which should finish mid-January) it will be interesting to see what happens and how this affects my decision on where to buy veg in the future.

Remembering the Classic Runner Bean Slicer

It’s Halloween week, but this week’s box didn’t contain a pumpkin (shame as I have a great recipe for pumpkin soup), but it did contain:

• A massive cabbage • 3 small onions • Carrots • Potatoes • Runner beans • Squash • Swede.

The first thing I did was to prepare the runner beans for freezing as I know how to do that properly now! Find out how to freeze runner beans here.

Ye Olde Bean Slicing Machine

This time there were more runner beans to prepare, so as I stood taking off the stringy edges and cutting them up, I had time to remember the old bean-slicing machine that Mum and I used 20-odd years ago.

It was a sturdy metal, freestanding object with a wooden handle you turned as you pushed the beans through the hole for slicing. And it was bright orange.

I searched the internet to see if I could find the bean slicer from my memory and lo and behold, I found it here and here on Flickr. I’m so glad to see that the writer of the blog post is just as excited about it as I am!

Organic Kale – and a Very Good Reason to Wash Your Veg

It’s veg box morning and today among the usual potatoes, carrots, onions and swede are three nice surprises: a bunch of runner beans and for the first time, kale and a box of Living Salad.

This box throws up a couple of issues about the veg you get in veg boxes: 1) sometimes it’s not that ‘pretty’ and 2) sometimes it needs a jolly good wash!

Organic is Great, But it’s Not That Pretty

This issue opens a can of worms. My carrots are odd-shaped and a bit dumpy, the swede is pitted, the onions are tatty and the runner beans are scarred, but none of this should matter. We shouldn’t expect our veg to look perfect, but we do because that is how the supermarkets (and us consumers) have demanded it.

Years ago I wrote an article for Health & Fitness magazine about exactly this issue. Most of us have learned to ‘shop with our eyes’ and pick out the most perfect-looking specimens on the supermarket shelf. However in Mediterranean countries, for example, people are more concerned with flavour and choose their produce by squeezing and smelling it.

Ugly = Tasty!

By consistently opting for good looks we are also banishing uglier yet tastier varieties of fruit and veg that are simply not being put on supermarket shelves anymore. And because they are not put on supermarket shelves, many farmers cannot afford to grow them because the buyers may not be there.

So I say, bring on the dumpy carrots and scarred runner beans, they’re fresh from the farm, free of pesticides and so much tastier than your average supermarket offering.

Needs a Jolly Good Wash

Another issue is that much of the veg arrives in need of a wash. This week, my carrots and swede are covered in earth – and the kale has a whole new surprise in store for me.

The earth is easy enough to deal with and proves to me that this veg has come straight from the farm. I only discover the surprise in the kale when I enlarge the photo I took of it.

Buuuuuuugs!!! I would never have noticed them otherwise. Needless to say, I gave the kale a good bath.

The moral of the story . . . always wash your veg!

UPDATE: I’ve just found a great post on the Bread & Honey blog where they found something very interesting in their packet of frozen broccoli . . .

Plastic Packaging in a Veg Box . . . Why?

This week I open my veg box to reveal: • Potatoes • Cabbage • Onions
• Carrots • Sweeeeeeede • Sweetcorn
and • Mushrooms.

Any swede that enters my home gets escorted next door as quickly as possible, so as much as I hate them, I love them for their role in neighbour relations! And joy! For the first time my box has produced a punnet of normal mushrooms. I look forward to introducing them to some cloves of garlic later in the week.

However, I still can’t help cringing when any of my veggies arrive packaged in plastic. Not only were the mushrooms in a plastic punnet covered with cling film, but the potatoes have arrived in plastic bags for several weeks.

The potatoes used to come in paper bags with no labels. My only guess is that these potatoes have travelled further and have had to be sealed and labelled to prove the origin of the contents, but I’m not convinced.

I look forward to my veg box provider finding new solutions that don’t involve plastic bags, punnets and cling film. It doesn’t seem right for veg boxes to contain this sort of packaging.

Stuff Them! (Or . . . The Best Thing to Do With Giant Mushrooms)

Sept 20

My veg boxes are starting to look a bit more interesting again, so it’s with renewed enthusiasm that I pull back the tape sealing the box each week. This week there were the obligatory cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes, plus a beautiful cauliflower and three newcomers: two cobs of sweetcorn, three massive mushrooms and something purple!

To figure out what the ‘something purple’ was I got on to Google images and searched for ‘purple vegetable’ as I had no other clues. Pretty soon I found a match in ‘kohl rabi’. I’ve heard the name before, but I don’t recall the face – and I certainly have no idea of the taste. I look forward to learning more.

Stuffed Mushrooms

I chose to eat the mushrooms straight away and decided that really the best thing to do with giant vegetables is to get them stuffed. So I brushed the mushrooms inside and out with olive oil and pre-baked them for 10 minutes at 170 degrees.

The stuffing consisted of anything I could find, but included rice, gruyère cheese, sunflower seeds and various finely-diced vegetables, which I cooked as necessary. I spooned the resulting mixture into each mushroom and topped them with a layer of cheese.

The mushrooms then went back into the oven, this time covered with foil, and were baked for a further 15–20 minutes. They tasted OK, but not as nice as my stuffed peppers – mmmmmm. If I do these again, I will look around for some tastier stuffing recipes.

Now I’m off to find out more about kohl rabi, see you soon . . .

How to Freeze Runner Beans

I’m back from a freeze on my blog, which was mainly due to the fact that my veg boxes were all becoming rather similar. But I’m delighted to report that this has now changed. The other week I received a lovely bunch of runner beans for the first time, which brought back some of my happiest memories from childhood.

Back when my parents used part of their garden for vegetables, runnerbean tepees were a regular sight. The beans seemed to grow like the clappers and every day my parents would disappear down a tunnel of bamboo canes to pick out the latest finds among the curling fronds and delicate red flowers. Mum and I then sat on the step with a mountain of beans, trimming the edges and cutting them at an angle into elongated diamonds.

So I was delighted to find runner beans in my veg box, and true to form, they appeared in the box for three weeks in a row. Now, there’s only so many beans a girl can eat, so for the first time in my veg box venture, I decided to try my hand at freezing.

I trimmed the edges from my runner beans and cut them into diamonds just like I remembered, then put them in a freezer bag, which went straight into the freezer box. Very happy with myself I called Mum, only to discover that there’s a bit more to freezing than that!

Here’s the ‘Proper’ Way to Freeze Runner Beans

• Wash your runner beans in cold water
• Trim off the edges, top and tail, with a knife
• Cut the beans to your preferred size and shape
• Blanch your beans by dropping them into boiling water and boiling them for 3 minutes
• Drain in a colander or sieve and run them under cold water for a minute
• Shake the water off and dry the beans on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel
• Put your beans in a freezer bag and seal – try to get rid of as much air in the bag as possible
• Write the date on the bag – runner beans will keep for around 3 months in a freezer

Well . . . now I know what to do next time!

Here I remember the runner bean slicer of my yesteryear . . .

 

The Joy of Swede . . . Or Not

Veg Box 10

• Potatoes • Carrots • Onions • Cabbage
• Swede • Parsnips • Red peppers • Celery

As you know, I’m not keen on ye olde swedee. My veg box scheme is quite basic – I don’t choose what comes, I get what’s available and that’s that, so they are going to keep on coming.

There are schemes available that let you add extras to your box or take away things that you don’t like. In a way I quite like having no control about what arrives each week. It means my diet gets a shake up with nutrients from veg I might not have chosen to eat. However, I would still like to wave goodbye to swede! Goodbye, salam, auf wiedersehen, arrivederci, adios, au revoir, farvel . . .

(You can find out how to say goodbye in lots of different languages here. And why not!)

The Squash and the Swede

Veg box 8, March 1st

This morning’s colourful veg box included:
• Potatoes • Carrots • Onions • Cabbage • Cauliflower
• Swede
(quelle horreur!), and the newcomers: • Red pepper • Squash.

Squash . . . But Which Squash?!

The newcomers are very welcome. I’ve enjoyed all the squash I’ve tried before but I’m not entirely sure whether this one is a buttercup or Japanese kabocha. According to The Cook’s Thesaurus, both varieties are orange fleshed and described as ‘dry’, so there’s no clues there either. I guess I will work it out when I taste it, apparently the buttercup has ‘a sweet and creamy orange flesh’, while the kabocha ‘tastes of sweet potatoes’. They sound pretty similar to me and at the end of the day, who cares what it’s called – it’s a squash!

A Breakthrough with Swede

I’m delighted to report that I’ve found a great new way to deal with the dreaded swede. When I opened the box this morning and saw this unwelcome visitor I decided I needed to find someone who would make it more welcome in their home. I texted my neighbour and asked if she liked swede and within minutes there was a knock at the door. Yay! My swede can now enjoy a happy life next door. Fantastic. So swedes are good for something after all – neighbourly relations.

Win a veg box for a year

As you know, I was lucky enough to win my weekly supply of organic veggies and the prize lasts a whole year. I was just browsing the site where I won the prize and I thought you’d like to know that the competition is still on!

Go to the Country Life website by clicking this link and you could be a winner, too! All you have to do is fill in a short form and you can enter once every week. There are weekly draws from 23 Feb to 14 April, so you’ve got lots of chances. Good luck

[UPDATE: This competition is no longer running]

Veg Box 7

Veg Box 7, February 23rd• Cauliflower • Onions • Potatoes • Bean sprouts
• Swede • Broccoli • Carrots • Cabbage

Eeek! It’s veg box day and I haven’t made it very far through the last box yet. I seem to have a glut of bean sprouts and onions, and decide that stir fries are made for days like these.

I get out the biggest onion and the entire pack of bean sprouts then I notice that I still have the brussels, too. I chuck it all in the wok then add a couple of eggs at the end. I’ve run out of soy sauce so I grab the Worcester Sauce instead!

Sometimes these ‘throw in whatever you got’ type of meals turn out to be the best, don’t they. This meal is OK. At least I know it’s healthy.

But back to this week’s box. Sweeeeeeede . . . YARG!