by Laura Rowe
Veg boxes make life easy, keep it fresh, and bring the producer direct to your door. Nowadays many can be bought at the click of a button and with optional added extras such as meat, dairy and even toiletries there really are no excuses.
Laura Rowe takes a look at four of the best boxes in Wales now.
Welsh Food Box Company
Where? Boxes are delivered to Cardiff and South East Wales.
When? You can order a one-off or set up a regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly box. Deliveries take place from 9am to late on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to homes and workplaces.
How much? Boxes start at £8.95 for one to two people, up to £20 for a family of four or more. Delivery of veg boxes is free of charge.
As one of the first firms to supply organic fruit and veg boxes to South Wales more than 20 years ago, the Welsh Food Box Company knows its winwns.
They have always been passionate about searching for small, local producers and growers that have the highest production standards and ethical farming practices. Each box contains everyday staples such as potatoes and carrots, and apples in the fruit boxes, alongside seasonal, local produce.
During quieter months in the growing calendar you can expect to see produce (grown to the same standards) sourced from further afield, across the UK and Europe but they never use air-freighted produce. If you don’t like the thought of that, just ask for a ‘Local Hero’ box which is limited to only local suppliers (all of which are listed on the website).
Indeed, flexibility is one of the Welsh Food Box Co’s specialities. Boxes can be 100% organic vegetables or fruit, or a mixed ratio to suit your tastes. You can go “off-piste” and build your own box, and you can add extra items including everything from artisan bread and free-range poultry, to preserves and pickles, Welsh fish and shellfish, butter, eggs, cheeses and a range of storecupboard ingredients. You can even add-on cleaning products and toiletries for no extra delivery charge if you have already ordered a box. And if there’s a vegetable that you just can’t stand, the team will exclude it from your box.
Leave out the box for the delivery man after you’ve emptied it and he’ll recycle it for you, too.
Organic Fresh Food Company
Where? Boxes are delivered around Lampeter, Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Carmarthen, Cardiff, Swansea and Pembrokeshire.
When? Delivery days depend on your postcode. Check the website for details.
How much? Veg boxes start at £10 for a small vegetable and salad bag for one to two people and go up to £21 for a large vegetable and salad box suitable for four to six people. Delivery costs £1.50 for orders between £10 to £25. Orders over £25 are free. Deliveries to Pembrokeshire are priced differently as they are via a next-day courier.
Established by a group of Welsh organic growers in 2007, the Organic Fresh Food Company does what it says on the tin. Now run by Lucy Watson and Ben Pratt, it is a scheme which celebrates the best in Welsh produce.
The suppliers, which are all listed on the website, include Blaencamel Farm, Little Pencoed Farm and Trethowan Dairy and help bring together local fruit, vegetable, salad and juicing boxes which reflect the season. This month and into July expect Welsh salad leaves, tomatoes, bunches of carrots, herbs, spinach, chard and peas. You might spot the odd organic English mushroom or Spanish aubergine, alongside the regular staples of potatoes, onions and carrots, but Lucy and Ben assure us they have a strict no air-freight policy.
You can have up to two items in your box substituted (if you don’t like courgettes, for example) and you can also top up your box with anything from the Organic Fresh Food Co range, which includes organic and local produce and meat, fresh fish from Cardigan Bay, eggs, milk, cheese, butter and more.
Plus, as a bonus, each week there is a newsletter which accompanies the boxes, letting you know what’s been happening in Lampeter, Ben’s bread-making trials and tribulations, local growing news, weather chat and a recipe using some of the box ingredients.
There is also a range of recipes on the website.
Cwm Harry Food Company
Where? Boxes are delivered to homes, shops and workplaces in Newtown, Welshpool, Montgomery and the surrounding area.
When? Deliveries take place twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
How much? A small box costs £8 (and is suitable for one to two people) while the large box (which is aimed at a family) costs £16.50. To add on fruit costs between £3 and £5.50. Free delivery is included when you buy a box. You can’t currently pay online but you can pay by standing order, cash or cheque.
Based in Powys, Cwm Harry is so much more than a veg box scheme. It is part of social enterprise and is all about supporting Welsh producers (mainly from Llanmerewig, Upper Hall Farm and Pont Farm, Bettws), local allotments and the local food economy. In essence, the team are trying to create a local food hub and promote sustainable living.
Their boxes contain locally grown, seasonal and (where possible) organic vegetables, fruit and produce and you can also request items such as free-range eggs, Montgomeryshire honey, and their own apple juice.
In October, you might see the team knocking on doors around North Montgomeryshire asking locals for unused apples (they even offer to pick apples for those that can’t, such as the elderly). They then take the apples to a local farmer, who presses it for them. Bottles are redistributed amongst those that donated apples and sold throughout the summer via the box scheme.
The priority for Cwm Harry is provenance first, so they look locally, then to Wales, then to England, then further afield if needed during the hunger gap or for fresh fruit.
Customers can opt to get only organic boxes, though, if they prefer. There’s a weekly email newsletter (although they will print one out for those that don’t have emails).
The firm also has its own organic allotment in Newtown with a polytunnel and two sheds and from July Cwm Harry is hoping to team up with Coleg Powys College, Newtown campus, on a 2.5-acre small holding. Here they hope to engage the students and work together to provide courses in addition to the few that they already run, such as community garden design.
Where? The Village Veg 13-acre farm is set half way up a hill on the outskirts of Caernarfon. Fruit and veg sacks are delivered to Caernarfon and Bangor areas, and the team are considering expanding to Anglesey, Porthmadog and Llandudno later this year.
When? Deliveries take place on Friday or you can pick up the sack straight from the farm at the weekend.
How much? A small sack costs £8, standard £11 and large £15, and all include delivery within eight miles of Waunfawr.
Using veg which is grown naturally (with stream water for irrigation and manure for fertiliser) on the Village Veg farm, and from Gwynedd- and Anglesey-based producers, Village Veg sacks are created with value for money in mind.
There are family favourites in each alongside weird and wonderful seasonal greens, root veg and salad including flower sprouts (a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts), microgreens, seven different potato varieties (such as Salad Blue, Highland Burgandy Red and Shetland Black) and four different types of carrots in a rainbow of colours.
In the standard and large veg sacks you even get half a dozen eggs, too. The hessian sacks are reused each time, along with the egg boxes, and the delivery vans run on bio-diesel made from chip-shop oil.
Village Veg founder Emma Duffy writes a weekly newsletter with facts and information about the more unusual veg she delivers.
You can meet the Village Veg team at the Porthmadog Local Produce Market on the last Saturday of every month between 9am and 2.30pm and at the mobile Snowdonia Market.
What’s on the Welsh Menu?
Our top tips to use up your July veg box
- Make the most of new season beets by roasting them with chilli-infused olive oil and whole cumin seeds, or grate raw with a handful of carrots and dress with tahini, crème fraîche, grated root ginger and lime juice
- Steam runner beans until tender. Meanwhile gently fry a sliced garlic clove and fresh red chilli in rapeseed oil until you are hit with the aroma, then pour over the steamed beans
- For a fresh pasta dish, lightly fry grated courgette with summer soft herbs (like mint and parsley), lemon juice and bind into pasta with ricotta cheese
- Make a speedy tomato salsa by dicing tomatoes and red onion. Add finely chopped coriander, nigella seeds and dress with hemp oil and lime juice
What have you been cooking this month? Send us your recipes and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.