Supermarket veg is high on convenience but can, at times be low on taste. Sourcing your produce from those brightly-lit aisles, meanwhile, can lure you into believing that everything is in season all year round. If you’re yearning to get away from the plastic-packed courgettes and back to nature, but don’t have the farm on your doorstep, then letting the farm come to you - in the form of a veg box delivery scheme - might be the way to go.
All of the options below offer a range of different boxes, and while not all cover the whole of the UK, most do, so there should be something for every veg-hungry shopper. The majority of the produce in the boxes below are organic and a good proportion is UK-grown. We got sample boxes delivered to check for quality of the produce, ease-of-use of the service and considered its impact on the environment. Please note that the boxes pictured are an example of what is available and may not correspond to the starting price listed.
1. Abel & Cole Veg Box: From £11, Abel & Cole
Heavily branded and big on what a friend once described as ‘wackaging’ (zany, over-friendly marketing blurb a la Innocent smoothies), but Abel & Cole hasn’t forgotten the core point of a veg box - quality organic veg. The Romanesco cauliflower and cavelo nero were high points of our box. There are more size options than most schemes and options for fruit and veg or pure-veg selections. There are also plenty of tasty add ons to be purchased, including eggs, milk, bread and chocolate. Deliveries are weekly, and you can opt out any time or suspend your box if you’re going on holiday. You can also add veg you hate to a “never send” list, and swap the contents of your box if there are things coming that you don’t fancy.
2. Farmaround Veg Bag: From £10.20, Farmaround
Organic service Farmaround wins the prize for minimal packaging - our veg, including an impressive squash, savoy cabbage and beetroot, came in a simple brown bag, which is ideal for storing your root veg in. There are a number of different size options and the likes of a mixed salad bag, juicing and Mediterranean veg add ons available, and there’s a bespoke “pick you own” bag. There’s a cheery newsletter tucked inside too, featuring a couple of recipes for using up your all organic supplies. Delivers to Greater London, the Home Counties and the North of England. You can choose your frequency and your order can be suspended as required.
3. Eversfield Vegetable Box: From £11.85, Eversfield Organic
This family-run outfit, based in Devon, majors in organic meat but also delivers veg boxes and a range of deli items including cheeses, spices, chutneys and fudge. As they use external couriers, our Eversfield box had more packaging than some others (including ice packs), but the contents were both delicious and interesting; globe artichokes, anyone? Sizes range from mini to large and there are root-free options, as well as a juicing box option. Boxes can be ordered whenever suits and individual fruit and veg products can be added on.
4. Riverford Vegetable Box: From £10.35, Riverford
Riverford is one of the giants of the veg box delivery world, and deposits around 47,000 boxes of organic fodder to customers around the country every week. The potatoes and kale were particularly delicious in this box, and the packaging was minimal and entirely recyclable. There are numerous size options, including one containing all British-grown veg. Boxes have fixed contents, but these are emailed to customers in advance every Friday, and posted online, giving them the option to switch between the range of boxes or purchase add-ons of additional fruit and veg, or extras such as meat and eggs. The weekly deliveries can be stopped or suspended with two working days’ notice.
5. Ocado Organic Veg Box: From £12, Ocado
Perhaps surprisingly for a supermarket veg box, Ocado’s offering came simply packed in a cardboard box. There were a few goodies from further afield, such as avocados, but plenty of UK produce too, including fat Conference pears. Ocado’s boxes have had mixed reviews online, but ours was good. Boxes are ordered on an ad hoc basis from the website, which lists the planned contents of the next two weekly boxes.
6. Northern Harvest Vegetable Boxes: From £6 for a box, but minimum order per delivery of £15, Northern Harvest
Along with plenty of pleasingly authentic dirt, our good-value Northern Harvest box contained some of the biggest carrots we have ever seen, as well as British staples such as parsnips and cauliflower. Their range of boxes includes organic and non-organic options, and while the content of the set boxes cannot be changed, there is also the option to order a la carte produce from the website. Deliveries are once a week to areas within a 40-mile radius of Kenyon Hall Farm in Warrington, which equates to a good chunk of northern England, or you can "click and collect" from the farm. There’s no need to order every week, however - just as and when required.
7. Growing Communities Organic Veg Bag: From £7.75, Growing Communities
Originating in Hackney, east London, this not-for-profit social enterprise bags up sustainably-grown produce for its customers to collect weekly from points around the borough. There’s no official provision for changing what’s provided in your bag, but some collection points offer “swap boxes” for you to exchange food you don’t like. There are options without potatoes to choose from too. Growing Communities also runs a start-up scheme promoting other local fruit and veg schemes around the country; so far nine more have begun under this umbrella, in London, Burnley, Margate and Manchester. Payment is up front each month, though you can leave the scheme at any time.
The Verdict: Vegetable boxes
If you’re in its delivery area, the Northern Harvest box represents excellent value for such good-quality veg, and is the option we’d be most inclined to sign up for as a regular customer. All of the other boxes sampled also provided tasty offerings; Abel & Cole had a slight edge for its combination of interesting varieties, eco-friendly packaging and ease of ordering. If you’d like to support a local scheme, and none of the above fit that bill for you, there are online “veg box finder” tools including by the Soil Association.
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