Tag Archives: veg boxes

Guy’s newsletter: wild garlic & potato patience

I am in the midst of my annual wild garlic fest; whether mixed raw in a salad or sandwich, wilted into an omelette or over pasta, ground into pesto with roasted hazelnuts or melted into a risotto, the possibilities are endless. To add to that, unlike so much foraged food, wild garlic is quick and easy to use too.

Such is my enthusiasm that about eight years ago we started harvesting wild garlic from the woods and including it in the veg boxes; a few people said they would rather forage for their own, but the huge majority of you welcomed it, so we have continued. We did pause briefly after accidentally including a Lords and Ladies leaf in a bag; unfortunately wild garlic, known as ‘ransoms’ locally, shares its habitat with a number of mildly poisonous plants, most notably Lords and Ladies and Dog’s Mercury. Today our pickers are very careful and a second team sort through the leaves again in the barn before packing it into bags; even so, please keep an eye out for any odd leaves and if in doubt, discard them. Having said that, last year I nibbled the tiniest corner of a Lords and Ladies leaf as an experiment; it felt like a fox had sprayed in my mouth and I’d washed it down with sulphuric acid. Indeed a search of the web suggests the sensation in the mouth (caused by needle-like oxalate crystals) is so rapidly unpleasant that it would be hard to eat enough to cause lasting harm.

Meanwhile we have planted most of our early potatoes but it will be May before lifting starts even in the most favoured parts of west Cornwall and the Channel Islands; faster varieties like Rocket and Swift can be ready in April but they are invariably a disappointment when it comes to flavour. The remaining potatoes from last autumn’s harvest are being stored in the dark at 3°C and the most dormant varieties (mostly Desiree and Valor) will slumber on until May, as if they were lying dormant underground believing it is still winter above. We bring them up to 10°C before grading and bagging and you will find that from now on they will have a growing propensity to sprout; keeping them in the fridge helps if you have the space, but don’t worry about sprouting; they will still eat well provided there is no greening of the skins. They may even be sweeter.

Guy Watson

Everyday And Sunday – Our Brand New Book

When we started the box scheme it was obvious that, much as our customers aspired to eat seasonal veg, many needed practical help to make it a reality. As the years passed I realised we needed to think beyond the nearest hedge; our fate lies half in what we grow and how, and half in what you all do with it in the kitchen. First there were intermittent monthly newsletters; over time they became weekly and I found myself almost as obsessed with cooking as with growing. In 2005 Jane Baxter, the pro with a pedigree, joined us and we opened the Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant. In 2008, spurred on by rave restaurant reviews and requests from customers, we published the Riverford Farm Cook Book with recipes (mostly from Jane) and rants (mostly from me). It has now gone to its third print run and has won Best First Book and Best Work on British Food at the Guild of Food Writers Awards. We are both very proud of it.

Over the last year we have written another: Everyday and Sunday – Recipes from Riverford Farm. Fewer rants (I seem to have become worryingly placid) and more recipes this time. The “everyday” bit is the simple food you might cook in a hurry for the family on a weekday; the “Sunday” is the more time consuming stuff we would serve in the Field Kitchen. It is organised seasonally by month, with intros from me and most recipes by Jane, with a few from our growing band of Riverford Cooks. Everyday and Sunday is out on 2nd May, as a £24.99 hardback or £18.99 paperback (the paperback is only available through us).

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

box amnesty

Riverford VegboxesOur boxes are reused on average four times, are made from 95% recycled materials and are recycled at the end of their lives but, surprisingly, still account for 10% of our carbon footprint (similar to the lorries delivering the boxes). In the long run we may move to plastic boxes as a more durable and lower impact solution. Preliminary calculations suggest this would give a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions, but it would be a huge capital investment and many of you have expressed a strong resistance to plastic in the past. I sense a rise in pragmatism over dogmatism in environmental issues generally and wonder how you would feel about your veg being delivered in a deposit-carrying plastic crate; email your thoughts to plasticvegbox@www.riverford.co.uk/blog.

In the meantime we really need as many boxes back as possible, even if they are damaged (there is a much better chance of them being effectively recycled through us than through most municipal recycling schemes). The boxes cost between 54p and 81p but just as importantly this is the biggest thing you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your veg delivery. Please fold your box flat by pushing the ends in so the bottom goes down (not up into the box) and leave it out for your vegman or lady to collect. We are also happy to take back plastic bags but would rather you added paper punnets to your compostable or paper waste.

help us make your box even better

We really like to know what you think about your vegbox and every week we give you the chance to tell us about your most recent delivery in our box quality survey. Your comments help us keep on top of anything that isn’t up to scratch, let us know about anything that is particularly good and give us new ideas to make the boxes even better. It only takes a minute each week; please follow the link from your weekly box contents email or scroll down to the beetroot on the ‘this week’s box’ page of the website.

Guy Watson


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a cooking odyssey

janeAs you may have guessed, I am a vegetable bore. Twenty five years ago when I sowed my first leek I was fairly well adjusted but now my wife reckons I can turn any conversation to growing, cooking or eating veg within seconds. The box scheme was founded on the invigorating but dangerous assumption that my obsession was, at least partially, shared by customers.

This year I set out on a cooking odyssey to understand how others use or don’t use our vegetables. I cooked in village halls, in my bus, on the beach, in tents in Wales, on stage at WOMAD but most of all in customers’ homes. The experience has been fascinating (for a veg bore), frustrating (you are all so different) and humbling (there is life after vegetables). My abiding impression is that most of you do share an enthusiasm for our veg, but that we need to make it easier for you to incorporate them into often busy lives. According to our customer survey last year only 5% of you find it really easy to use your box and 32% struggle. However fresh and tasty, local and minimally packaged, fairly traded and sustainably grown those carrots and beans are, if you are struggling to use them we will lose you in the end.

Our mission for the coming months is to make life with a box easier. There will be a few minor changes like less clods of mud but mostly we want to do this by cooking with you; both virtually and in person. We plan to team up with around 100 like-minded professional cooks who are inspired by our veg and on a par with our chef, Jane Baxter when it comes to cooking them. They will work part-time with us and our customers, inspiring, teaching, demonstrating, creating recipes. We plan to run initiatives including affordable cookery classes and demos in homes, workplaces and community venues; lunch clubs, supper clubs and cooking clubs and a recipe exchange for customers. We have already run some pilot events and now we really want to get going.

Guy Watson