Vegetables, something I go through at a speedy rate. We're always buying organic spinach and kale for our smoothies but I go through a lot tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots and so on. Even though veg can be very cheap in supermarkets it often isn't good quality. Recently, I have been buying from M&S, the M&S own brand vegetables are extremely reasonable which is what pulled me in. Even though the vegetables here were very reasonable and good quality, there are always a few thoughts at the back of my mind. I have no clue what this veg has been treated and washed with let alone what fertilisers and pesticides were used to grow them. I imagine the veg sits in refrigerated carts for days/weeks before it gets to the shelves too, its never as fresh as coming straight out of the ground. Sometimes I've brought vegetables from tesco and the next day they've already started to go rotten. There is a LOT of plastic waste with buying vegetables from the supermarket (unless you always buy loose) and I don't like it, I also don't like all the chemicals that have gone into making the plastic packaging touching my food.
I started to look into organic vegetable subscription boxes, there are quite a few out there and I know a few friends who have them. I found a few popular ones but I then decided I wanted to support a local vegetable farm if I could. I took to google and found The Essex Herb Company. The Essex Herb Company is a local (Southend-on-Sea) company that sells quality, fresh and locally sourced seasonal fruity and vegetables, proper free range eggs, honey and they also supply veg boxes. They offer fruit and vegetables that come fresh from Spitalfields, in addition to this they offer organic vegetables that come straight from Sarah Green Organics in Tillingham. I got in touch with Sarah Green Organic's to learn more about their fertilisers and if they use GMO seeds of any kind, this is the response I received -
'We don't use any artificial fertilisers or chemicals on the land or our vegetables. We don't use any GMO seeds or blood meal. We build up our soils natural fertility using a good cropping rotation, we sow green manures e.g clover and grass and add compost which is also produced on our farm'.
I asked about animal manure as of course, this could contain GMO, antibiotics or anything depending on what the animal was fed on, their response was -
'A neighbouring farmer has a small flock of sheep that graze the organic green manures in the winter months. These sheep are on a grass only diet and so, no GMO's'.
This was an extremely thorough answer and one I was completely satisfied with, a really green vegetable farm!
I wanted to learn more about The Essex Herb Company so I gave their Facebook page a message and Pippa (the brains and hands behind the veg box making) got back to me straight away to answer the questions I had Pippa was only too happy to help. I decided to go ahead and try a vegetable box from them, I went with a medium organic box which cost £13.50. They offer several different sizes for the organic veg box (as well as their own), you can get a small veg box for £12 and a large veg box for £16. Pippa delivered the veg box on the following Thursday afternoon and what a sight it was! A box filled with such vibrant colour, so many lovey vegetables and they smelt scrumptious. I haven't got that from any shop brought vegetables in the past, I literally wanted to eat it all at once! In the veg box's there are always staples - potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and onions but the rest may be different every time. However, if there is something you really don't want because you can't have it there is some room for change.
In the box I received - leeks, chard leaves, cherry tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, onion, spring onions, garlic and gourmet oyster mushrooms (which are grown locally by Urban Farmers using locally spent coffee grounds as fertiliser).
As these vegetables have just been harvested they need a good clean before you use them, don't worry it's not loads of dirt! I decided to clean these up before putting them in my fridge as I'm likely to use these very soon, so it will be good to be able to use them straight away. I have to admit there was something quite satisfying about cleaning them up, looking at them knowing they were harvested yesterday and they are as fresh as it gets! The right picture is some of the glorious vegetables washed and ready, how lovely do they look?! So colourful, in fact all the vegetables were lovely and vibrant and fresh. I cannot fault anything, the vegetables stayed fresh in the fridge. The leafy items like the chard leaves I ate a few days after the box arrived as I knew these would probably last the least amount of time just because of the nature of the vegetable.
I couldn't wait to start creating, the below left picture was the first meal I made. Some red lentil pasta on one side and the other as a mix of courgette, pepper, leek, spring onion, parsnip, cherry tomatoes, gourmet oyster mushrooms, beans and tomato puree. On the right hand side - all the beautifully coloured chard leaves, spinach, plum tomatoes, beans, spinach and pine nut falafel and a few pieces of gnocchi all in tomato puree. I also made some DELICIOUS (if I do say so myself) potato and leek soup which included the small potatoes, leek and oyster mushrooms I received in the box
What I like with this box is you can really work with it, it has already encouraged me to just create and make things I wouldn't have thought about before, using all the lovely delicious ingredients I have at my disposal. I'll be getting this box every two weeks, maybe with some extra tomatoes and leeks as I seem to go through them quite quickly. In my eyes this is all well worth the money, I would easily spend this on a weekly shop. I go through so many vegetables its great to eat some with some real taste. I'm so happy I discovered The Essex Herb Company and that I have made the transition to a locally sourced vegetable box.