Dispensing some veg box wisdom

We do have a few veg box slots available if you are interested, see this page.

Seven years as a market trader means I’ve heard a lot of observations about organic seasonal veg over the years, and wanted to share some my tips with you.

Firstly, It tastes better, so your cooking will be instantly next level too, I promise 😊

Andrea Bemis who’s books and blog I really recommend

Books
If you’re anything like me, you own a lot of cookery books, but maybe have only cooked a handful of recipes from them. Seasonal veg will make you try some of the new recipes.

Some good ones for seasonal UK veg are Anna Jones and Ottolenghi. I also really like Meera Sodha (Indian vegetarian) and Sabrina Ghayour (Middle Eastern and meat focused). For blogs I like Thug Kitchen, Green Kitchen Stories and Digging up the Dirt. The latter is written by Andrea Bemis who farms in Oregon, and her original recipes showcase the less sexy vegetables.

Food variety in a year, not a week
A seasonal veg box can feel abit like you are eating one crop until it’s coming out of your ears. Just when you are beginning to think not again, it will disappear again to be replaced by something else that feels refreshingly “new.” Asparagus, new potatoes, corn on the cob, beans and courgettes to name a few seasonal stars.
If something really is coming out of your ears I find batch cooking huge meals at a time works for me, and my two freezers testify to this. Great when you come home starving and freezing from a hard day on the farm.

Hungry gap
There is a ‘hungry gap’ in the UK from late April to early June where the stored Winter crops have finished and the new season crops are only just starting to appear. It’s a challenge to source organic UK veg at this time, and the prices reflect that. Hold your nerve, summer goodness is coming, and prices will drop again. 

Veggie tips
Cauliflowers, leafy cabbages, corn on the cobs and calabrese broccoli are sold per unit, and the price is the same whether it’s a good season or a poor season ie. whether they are big or small. As the farmer has done exactly the same work whether they are big or small. Just like farming, you may score a whopper or you may feel abit like you’ve been had.

Red/white cabbages, squash and celeriac are sold by weight, and some of them are huge. For cabbages, if you are feeling intimidated (and I used to), learn how to make sauerkraut, and you’ll never look back.

Making saurkraut with enormous red cabbages

For squash: soup, curry and adding to the Sunday roast are my go to’s. For soup- I add coconut and chilli. For curry- I add chickpeas and spinach/chard. For Sunday dinner, just roast along with your other roast veg, and snack on leftovers through the week.

For celeriac: I make soup and freeze.

If you are not sure what to do with a root vegetable, roast it, and make a quick dipping sauce for it. Great for packed lunches through the week, with a grain &/or salad.

Salads and greens

The veg is unwashed- we don’t have the washing facilities and it’s a whole next level of audit with Environmental Health to sell washed crops. But if you are finding the greens abit gritty, particularly the salad, I do recommend a salad spinner. Ours was just a couple of quid from Ikea (other retailers are available).
We grow alot of salad, it makes everything else viable. Make a simple salad dressing by adding 3 parts oil to one part acid (lemon or vinegar). Add garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzle over your salad. Add things like yogurt, tahini, capers, herbs, blended onion to make more interesting.
There can be a lot of greens like kale and chard, and a good way to get more into you, is to steam then stir fry as they will reduce down. Start stems first as they take longer to cook, then add leaves. Great with soy sauce/ garlic/ lemon juice/ butter.

How to store
Our greens are picked just hours before they are delivered to you. But if they are not in plastic, they will wilt very quickly. If we deliver crops like kale, herbs or chard in a bunch with an elastic band round it, then put it in plastic yourself, and put it in the fridge. They should last for up to 1 week.
If you don’t have a suitable plastic bag, put it in water, like a bunch of flowers.
DON’T just put it loose in the fridge, as it will wilt very quickly.

How long does it last?

Greens in plastic should last up to 1 week.
Dirty root veg should last months, as long as you do not let it dry out. In Spring time though, they will start to try and grow roots.
Garlic, squashes and onions will last for 1 year if stored well (dark, cool, not damp).
White and red cabbages should last a few weeks though the outer layer may start to age abit. This can just be peeled off.
Chillies and herbs can be dried or frozen.

Share your kitchen triumphs

If you do anything cool with one of our veggies, send me the recipe and a photo and I’ll post it with a credit to you. (The photo needs to look good though, and natural light is the best way to achieve this.)
 
Happy eating,

Lindsay 🙂

2020’s growing season (oh and Covid and Brexit!)

So, this was an epic year for us, and thank you our wonderful veg box customers for your support. If you would like to join our veg box scheme in Spring, there’s details at the bottom of the page.

Our beetroot and broad beans are harvested hours before your delivery.

When the first lock down was announced in March, the markets we traded at in Levenshulme and Altrincham closed, and we had a £10k grant for community sessions retracted, so it was an incredibly stressful time. We’d spent the entire year planning the year out, and everything changed. Lindsay worked a record breaking 245 hours in March trying to work out what to do.

But at the same time everyone in the country was worrying about where they were going to get their food from. We were bombarded with 100 emails a day with people trying to join the organic veg box scheme. We had to put an out- of-office reply on my email, and eventually the inbox became so full that the emails just bounced back. Due to the demand we were able to double the veg box scheme from 30 to 60 people. We ran a waiting list all last year.   

Covid and Brexit have shown how fragile our food supply is, and how local growers are essential to ensuring the food supplied is climate-friendly, healthy and accessible. Data collected during April 2020 found that box schemes country-wide had doubled their numbers. The Organic Growers Alliance (OGA) published research from surveying of 101 veg box schemes, and found the 101 veg box schemes had delivered 0.7 million veg boxes in six weeks, but they could provide more, as 82% had waiting lists.

Our chard is harvested just hours before delivery.

The box schemes were asked what could be done to support veg box schemes to add these customers. And the top answer was investment. The government knows that food costs more to produce than producers are paid. So, historically DEFRA subsidised (as part of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy) landowners which are larger than 5 hectares simply for owning land (and some of these landowners produced food on their land). Market gardens exist to produce food but will be on a much smaller acreage, so they have never received any of this funding. This is despite the fact that fruit and vegetables are the only food group the government recommends we eat more of.

 The second answer was a national and long-term vison for a sustainable food and farming system. Under the new post- Brexit agriculture policy, with a move away from CAP payments due to land ownership to payments based on delivery of public goods, it was hoped that those who run veg box schemes might experience a more level playing field. But MPs voted down amendments to the Agricultural Bill, and the 10 Point Plan for Green Recovery makes no mention of food and farming, so we have been left out in the cold. We are relying on new and regular customers to support us long-term so that we are there to supply pesticide free fresh produce to our local communities in years to come.

This year Reddy Lane grew 1.38 tonnes of local organic veg, which went in the veg boxes we delivered locally. This is up from 1.15 tonnes last year. Interestingly, by focusing on high value crops, the extra 17% of crop weight grown brought in an overall 41% extra of total income.

Reddy Lane’s own crops made up just under 30% of the total value of the veg in the veg boxes. Lindsay single-handedly packed and delivered 1774 veg boxes! And she still thinks we can do much better on the amount of veg we can grow, and have been working with experienced market gardeners to crop plan for higher income and yields.

Kale and Purple sprouting broccoli at Reddy Lane

Top crops (in kgs)
Courgette & Marrow 217kg
French beans 194kg
Leeks 185kg
Kale 125kg
Chard 105kg

Reddy Lane’s French bean yield was 194kg

Top crops ( in ££s)
Salad £1900
Kale £1235
French beans £927
Leeks £639
Chard £610

And while we’re not dropping any of these crops, a more interesting analysis is value for space ratio, and how to work quick and profitable crops around these maincrops. For example, Rocket makes £12 a metre, and takes 4-5 weeks til harvest.    

If you would like to support local food growers and join the veg box scheme in Spring, please email us. There is info on the scheme here, and where we deliver to. Send us your postcode and we can check you are in the delivery area.

If you aren’t in the delivery area, and would just like to join our mailing list, send us your email and say mailing list.