Saturday, May 1, 2010

Organic Box Schemes

While we can all agree that the idea of organic veggie boxes is great, there is inevitably some practical issues that we take for granted having our groceries delivered by a large chain than the local farmer (which is learned helplessness I'm sure, but "helplessness" nonetheless).

First, I'll spare everyone the standard details as I would hope that if you're reading this blog, you're already convinced that organic seasonal produce is not only the most flavorful way to feed your family, it's also nutritious and much less taxing on the earth.

Now, onto the fun part: London is a fantastic place for organic veggie box schemes as there's a wide variety that deliver, on top of the other local London farms where you can actually go participate in the growing, much less the community plots that exist. Since the Times wrote an article on just this in 2008, I'm not going to go re-inventing the wheel, especially since they're all different and we all have different eating/purchasing/cooking habits. My top picks are also theirs:

However, I would like to say some quick words about things to look for when choosing a provider (other than basic questions like - do they deliver to my area, are they accurate with my orders etc).

1) They should all clearly mark where their produce is coming from. While organic, not all produce will be coming locally - especially bananas, so be on the lookout for these.
2) How flexible are they in their boxes? Can you choose to exclude certain veggies that show up every month of the year (and for which you only have a handful of recipes)?
3) What other products on your weekly list can you include in your box (i.e. dairy, meats, coffee, pantry items etc) and how do they compare with local organics that you normally purchase from?
4) In what condition are the fruits and veggies when they arrive? Granted most will not be as pristine as in conventional stores, but are the carrots so caked in dirt that you're paying more for dirt than for carrots?
5) How much do they give you for what you pay for? Is it worth it? I'm a firm believer that organic fruits and veggies do not equal anemic fruits and veggies.

I've been pretty happy with the Organic Delivery Company in London and would recommend it to others. I have liked how flexible they are with the boxes, the quality (and size, I admit) of their produce and the local dairy and other organic pantry items that we've been able to include in our order. It also helps that delivery is free and they include organic orange juice and other goodies if you order regularly.

Besides the standard delivery schemes, there are, as I mentioned the local farms, such as Farmaround in Richmond where you can go visit the farm and purchase your goods there. A great reprieve from city life.

Finally, there is also the option of growing your own in your garden (I believe average community plot wait times are about 2-3 years. I'm American. I don't have that kind of patience.) which we've started doing as well and these are great in fostering closeness to the earth with our son Henry while at the same time reaping some immediate rewards (anyone up for fresh mint tea? One of the great joys of a spring/summer London garden). Bon veggie!

PS. If you've ordered your organic box and don't know what to do with all your veggies, check out for great recipes and ideas organized by vegetable for quick and easy searching!

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