Just Box It

By Shannon Latimer

Photography & Styling by C&D Heierli, Tips by Diane Heierli

Few of us have the time—or space—to grow all the fruit, veggies and herbs we need to feed our family. And if things such as costly organic food prices and high food miles (the distance food is transported from the farm where it’s produced to the consumer) make you unhappy, then maybe it’s time to lock onto an organic veggie box scheme. This is a good way to cut food miles and source local food while paying fair prices for organic produce.

A veggie box scheme works like this. A box of fruit and veggies is delivered to your home or a main drop-off/collection point in your neighbourhood. Some schemes even offer things like stone-ground breads, herbs, spreads, honey, grains, pasta and even eco-friendly household cleaners and organic shampoos. 

The produce comes direct from the farmer—or a group of local farmers, depending on the scheme. The contents are usually fresh, seasonal and local. So you’ll be eating produce harvested just a few days before it landed in your box. And not about 6 weeks overdue, which is often the case with supermarket produce. That means no early picking to get produce to the market, no cold storage, and no lengthy transportation. And then think of the food miles you’re eliminating by not buying those Spanish tomatoes.

You’re not the only one who benefits from buying into a veggie box scheme. The local farmers do, too. They have a chance to sell their products direct to the consumer at a better price; they can also count on a guaranteed market and a chance to grow different varieties, other than those mass consumption and the supermarkets demand. 

Another plus for the veggie box scheme is that you’ll save money by avoiding impulse buys and special offers. Recent research suggests that 25 per cent of all items placed in your trolley are influenced by special offers, and often end up being wasted. 

Try these recipes for some veggie box inspiration:

Kick-arse Chicken and Leek Pie

Moreish Moist Carrot Cake

Wholesome Veggie Soup with Pistou  

But it’s not all sunshine and roses—there are some disadvantages, too. Sometimes, depending on the scheme you choose, there is little choice of what arrives in your box every week. Perhaps the element of surprise is what excites you, or this may be exactly what turns you off the veggie box option. So unless you’re a whiz in the kitchen, having a kilogram of parsnips for the week is a worry. How do I cook them? What do I serve them with? How do I cook them differently a second, or third or sixth time? After you’ve exhausted every parsnip recipe, or your family screams when they hear the word parsnips, you may wake up to the idea that quite a few schemes allow you to choose what you want and what you don’t want. So you won’t be stuck with the veggies you don’t know what to do with, and you won’t overfeed your worm farm. 

If you can’t tailor-make your box, or you’re not happy experimenting with or introducing new veggies into your household, you’ll need to put in a little effort. Find better cookbooks and/or go to the Internet to find ways of preparing unfamiliar veggies, as well as ideas for different ways to cook the veggies that are in season—the ones you’ll be seeing in your box every week. Being a little more adventurous with your cooking can be fun. It may even help your family become less fussy eaters, and include more nutrients in their diet. 

Just a tip when you get started with a veggie box scheme: storing your veggies can be an issue. You don’t want them to go off before you get a chance to cook them—and organic produce often ages more rapidly than their supermarket counterparts. Start by eating the produce that has a shorter shelf life first. This will take a little menu planning, but it will help save you time in the long run. 

Now that you know the ins and outs of veggie box schemes, the choice is up to you. Are you diligent enough to take extra effort in using all your veggies, and varying your usual cooking repertoire? Or can you find a flexible scheme that works for you and your family’s fussy palates? If you do find a scheme to work for you, the good news is that you’re on the road to eating healthier and fresher foods, with a lower cost to the environment. Now that should help you sleep well at night.

What’s Best for You? 

When looking into the different scheme options, here are a few questions you should ask. 

Fruit, vegetables, or both? Some schemes offer just vegetables, while others will also offer fruit. And some will even offer more than these two options.

Different sizes? Most schemes offer a range of box sizes for singles, couples and large families.

Are food miles important? Find out what proportion of the produce is sourced from local farms and what comes from the rest of South Africa.

Is opting out an option? If you and your family don’t eat certain fruit and veggies, does the scheme allow you to opt out of one or two of the offending foods? 

Do they have a quality policy? If you find a mouldy or rotting veggie, will they replace the item or give you something extra next week?

Different delivery options? What are the options for frequency of delivery? Can you choose fortnightly if once a week is too much for you? 

Box Delivery Schemes in SA

GAUTENG

Greenlands. Website to go live shortly. No 9 on 4th Avenue, Parkhurst. Tel. 011 880 9044. www.greenlandshealthshop.co.za

Organic Emporium. Online store with produce, meat, grains, herbs, jams, nuts and much more. Products delivered to Northern JHB areas, Midrand, Linksfield & Bedfordview. Tel. 011 704 0786. www.organicemporium.co.za

Wensleydale Farms. Online store, and other outlets. Produce, cereals, dairy, dried fruits, oils and more. Delivery areas online. Tel. 012 650 0064. www.wensleydale.co.za

KWAZULU-NATAL

Dovehouse Farm Organics. Farm shop only. Full list of products online—from produce, dairy, herbs and dried fruits to household cleaners, grains and frozen foods.14 Karkloof Rd, Howick. Tel. 033 330 3554. www.dovehouse.co.za

Earthmother Organic. Farm shop only. Full list of products online—from produce, pastas and rice, to nuts, spreads and snacks. 106 Bulwer Road, Durban. Tel. 031 202 1527. www.earthmother.co.za

WESTERN CAPE

Ethical Co-op. Electronic orders, delivery in Cape Town and countrywide of produce, eggs, dairy, dried fruit, beans, grains, home cleaning and more. www.ethical.org.za

Ganics. Electronic orders & store Quensh Organic deli., 42 Lower Main Road, Observatory. Delivery in Cape Town of produce, baked goodies, eggs, rice, pasta, nuts, and more. Tel. 021 447 0714. www.ganics.co.za

Organic By Nature. Produce deliveries in the Overberg region. Tel. 021 851 6491.organicbynature@telkomsa.net

Organic Zone. Farm store only. Main Road, Lakeside. Stocking produce, grains, breads, oils, dairy, soy, cleaning products, and more. Tel. 076 303 8001. www.organiczone.co.za

The African Potato. Electronic orders, produce boxes only. Deliver to Helderberg, Strand and Gordon’s Bay. Tel. 021 850 0957. www.theafricanpotato.co.za

Wild Trading Store. Electronic orders & store in Salisbury Street, Woodstock. Delivery in Cape Town of produce, breads, dairy, coffee, honey, oils, nuts and more. Tel. 021 448 8109. www.wildorganics.co.za

TIPS & TRICKS

How to Make Use of Extra Herbs and Veggies

Now let’s face it, you feel great. You are doing your bit for a healthy diet and a greener planet. Instead of dodging the remnants of last week’s fruit and veggie box and this week’s abundant supply of fresh herbs, here are a few tips for extending the life of your veggie box goodies. 

Heaps of Herbs

Herb-oil infusions placed on the dining table or on a kitchen windowsill aren’t just functional, they also look good.

Take a pretty glass bottle with a cork closure or a screw top, and arrange some herbs in the bottle. Any combination is good; perhaps try some thyme and rosemary, with a garlic clove and a few peppercorns. Or even some lemon grass, a slice of ginger, and a chilli or two. Pour over a good-quality olive oil and then let time do its thing. These also make great inexpensive Christmas gifts or personalised birthday presents.

Granadilla Cordial

This recipe will work with any of your favourite citrus fruits.

You need 1 cup of granadilla pulp, 4 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water and a teaspoon of citric acid (you’ll find this in the baking section of your local supermarket). Place all the ingredients in a pot over a low heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved, and decant into a bottle with a screw-top lid. The cordial will happily live in your fridge for four weeks. Drop some ice cubes into a glass, pour a little cordial over, and top up with sparkling mineral water.

Roasted Tomato Sauce for Pasta

If you haven’t quite finished all the red beauties from your veggie box, try this delicious pasta accompaniment. It’s easy to freeze, so you’ll never be without a quick dinner.  

Roll Rosa, cherry or even plum tomatoes onto an oven tray. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some salt, pepper and a garlic clove or two (peeled and coarsely chopped). Cover with foil and pop into a 180°C preheated oven for 20 minutes. Once done, uncover, tear some basil leaves over the tomatoes, and swirl around. Make sure they are all well coated, and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Allow to cool and then divide into as many portions as you want and place inside a Ziploc bag. Press down to remove as much air as possible before you seal the bag. Freeze until you’re ready for a tasty tomato pasta topped with Parmesan.

Basil Pesto, Frozen and Ready

If you’re left with an abundant supply of basil, why not make basil pesto ice blocks? Easy and convenient.

Rinse the basil leaves and put them into a deep jug, toss in a few garlic cloves, a handful of roasted pine nuts (roasted cashews also work), a handful of grated Parmesan, enough olive oil to combine the ingredients, and salt and pepper to season. Now blend with a stick blender, adding the olive oil gradually until the ingredients have combined to make a thick sauce. Spoon the pesto into the compartments of an iceblock tray and freeze. 

Whenever you need the pesto, you can pop out a cube and use it to make a tasty pasta sauce or to add some life to your gazpacho or veggie soup.