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10 best vegetable boxes that deliver fresh produce straight to your door

Eat the rainbow and discover new favourite foods, while supporting organic farming 

Ben Olsen
Wednesday 16 June 2021 17:04
<p>These delivery boxes are a convenient way to experiment with your five-a-day</p>

These delivery boxes are a convenient way to experiment with your five-a-day

Whether you’ve tried (and failed) to grow your own or are seeking something more inspiring than your supermarket selection, a spiking demand for vegetable boxes during the pandemic has led to more choice than ever before. Providing a much-needed pivot for farmers, producers and wholesalers hit by the hospitality sector’s travails, more and more have started selling direct to consumer in a move that tallies with a growing appetite for fresher, healthier food.

“We’ve seen a major upturn in the volumes of fruit and vegetables being purchased over the past year and there’s definitely a degree of excitement about vegetable boxes,” says Jack Ward, CEO of the British Growers Association. “They enable people to become more emotionally invested in the food they’re eating and there’s a growing interest in the backstory behind the produce and knowing where it’s come from.”

For first-timers, Ward advises getting to grips with which vegetables need to be eaten in which order and understanding your own best-before system so you get the most out of the selection you receive, which can often provide a challenge to the uninitiated. “You never quite know what’s coming and it’s very seasonal, which means you probably get confronted with a different variety of vegetables than you would in a supermarket. But if you’ve got access to the internet there are a multitude of recipes, suggestions and helpful ways to cook vegetables that didn’t exist before.”

A huge benefit of buying vegetable boxes is their focus on seasonality and – as well as the British berry and salad seasons, which are now underway – Ward also advises keeping an eye out for the arrival of summer brassicas, in particular savoy cabbages, which can provide a tasty surprise. “With all of these things, you’re going to be getting these crops at the peak of their perfection – they’re often the first cuttings and will be at the absolute top of their game.”

We tested all the vegetable boxes below for the quality of the produce upon arrival, before sampling in a variety of dishes, both raw and cooked where appropriate. Consideration was also given to the ease of purchase, available selection, customisation options, delivery and packaging, with those eschewing plastic for more sustainable options earning particular praise. Here, ranging from earthy organic pioneers to digital-savvy newcomers and specialist, one-crop producers, we’ve listed ten of the best boxes for adding a healthy kick to your kitchen repertoire.

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The best vegetable boxes for 2021 are:

  • Best overall Riverford zero packaging veg box: £15.35,
  • Best for adventurous palates Turnips at Borough Market VIP veg box: £45,
  • Best for tomato aficionados The Tomato Stall organic tomato box: £22.50,
  • Best for veg box first-timers Abel & Cole medium very veggie veg box: £16.50,
  • Best for chef-grade European produce Natoora peak season box: £35,
  • Best for climate-conscious cooks Oddbox large veg home box, £14.99:
  • Best for organic simplicity – Daylesford Organic market garden veg box: £15,
  • Best for salads – Pikt seasonal salad box: £17,
  • Best for fully customisable boxes – Boxxfresh 10 portion boxx: £17,
  • Best for something different Farmdrop wild seasonal bundle: £21.50,

Riverford zero packaging veg box

Best: Overall

With 30 years of organic farming under its belt, Riverford Organic Farmers in south Devon was also an early veg box pioneer, starting with just 30 boxes delivered locally per week before – with the help of three regional sister farms – growing into the nationwide household name it is today. This innovative box is exactly what the world needs, too, ditching single-use plastic packaging and instead delivering eight “naked” seasonal veg varieties in recyclable paper or a compostable plastic alternative for more delicate items. None of which affected either the appearance or quality of a pristine, vibrant selection of vegetables – in our case including broad beans, miniature turnips, gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes – the flavour of which is sure to bring joy to those jaded by home cooking.

Turnips at Borough Market VIP veg box

Best: For adventurous palates

This hefty box comes courtesy of Turnips, a family-run fruit and veg wholesalers who have sold their wares at Borough Market for more than 30 years. Pivoting during the pandemic to vegetable boxes, they bring all their expertise to this elevated “VIP Veg” offering, which – designed to feed a family of four to six for a week – focuses on specialist seasonal varieties rather than the fundamentals. Alongside pedestrian inclusions like broccoli and spring onions, we discovered white asparagus, waxy purple potatoes, spherical aubergines, celeriac and spectacular multi-coloured radishes among a selection that, although not always easy to identify, is sure to excite curious cooks.

The Tomato Stall organic tomato box

Best: For tomato aficionados

Expect a big hit of feel good factor when you receive a delivery from The Tomato Stall. Available on a subscription or as a one-off purchase, this beautifully packaged, three-kilogram selection of heritage tomatoes from the sun-kissed Isle of Wight contains a seasonal mix of fruits in vivid red, yellow and orange hues, with the exact mix of cherry vine, beef and speciality cocktail varieties determined by what’s freshest on the day they’re picked. Perfectly ripe, juicy and dense, these outrageously flavoursome tomatoes put their plastic-wrapped supermarket equivalents to shame. Although they lasted at room temperature for almost a week we immediately paired some with burrata and basil to delicious effect, while later in the week served them grilled at breakfast and made a rich passata to freeze as a way to extend their shelf life further.

Abel & Cole medium very veggie veg box

Best: For veg box first-timers

We were highly impressed by both the quality and variety of this vivid selection from one of the UK’s leading organic retailers. While it now offers everything from meat and fish to snacks and cleaning products, Abel & Cole started life selling potatoes and this subscription service offers a faultless offering of organic vegetables dictated by seasonality. Spring greens, muddy spuds, a sizeable squash and a potent handful of spring onions were all standouts from a nine-strong selection that came accompanied by recipe cards, inspiration and all the guidance necessary to make the most of its brightly hued bounty, while the ability to add unwanted varieties to a Dislike List is a handy touch to keep food waste to a minimum.

Natoora peak season box

Best: For chef-grade European produce

Billing itself as radically seasonal produce, Natoora has long been on the radar of top chefs with restaurant-quality crops stemming from personal relationships with some of Europe’s leading small-scale independent growers. Once downloaded, an easily navigable app allows you to plan and select from an inspirational selection, or – far simpler – leave the curation to Natoora in the form of the Peak Season Box. Including ten weekly changing fruit and vegetable varieties hitting their seasonal peak, our beautifully presented doorstep delivery (available nationwide) included chunky British asparagus, Calabrian Tropea onions that, grilled on the barbecue, were sublime, as well as a zingy, mystery stone fruit that – thanks to the app – we identified as loquats from Alicante.

Oddbox large veg home box

Best: For climate-conscious cooks

As well as packaging solutions, other firms have explored alternative ways of serving us ethically sound vegetables, with Oddbox particularly worthy of applause. Developed in response to an eye-watering three-million tonnes of fruit and veg that are wasted before leaving the farm, Oddbox “rescues” otherwise perfect produce that’s deemed either too big, small or ugly for supermarket shelves – a fact that certainly doesn’t register when we unpack an aesthetically pleasing selection that included chunky asparagus, tenderstem broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, bell peppers, rhubarb and mixed leaves. Delivered either weekly or fortnightly across London, the south and the Midlands, it provided us with an impeccably fresh fridge-full of veg that formed the basis for a week’s worth of meals.

Daylesford Organic market garden veg box

Best: For organic simplicity

Taking a pared-back approach to the vegetable box concept, Daylesford Organic’s Market Garden Veg Box delivers a five-strong selection from its organic farm in the Cotswolds, which comes accompanied by a note from its packer. While it may lack the bells, whistles and niche cultivars offered by other boxes, the standard of the produce is exemplary, with our box featuring a particularly peppery mixed-leaf salad, purple-sprouting broccoli that packed plenty of crunch and runner beans that worked wonders in a salade niçoise. Perfect for those without the storage space or desire to accommodate and identify myriad varieties, it’s an impressive showcase of one of the UK’s most eminent organic farms.

Pikt seasonal salad box

Best: For salads

Delivered in a box proudly labelled with Pikt’s worthy credentials – Soil Association organic-approved, plastic-free-certified, not to mention an irreverent spectacles cut-out for kids – this seasonal salad box by Pikt is a game-changer for summer hosting. While Pikt’s website allows you to customise and build your own box from a vast range, this ready-made selection serves up plenty of inspiration for light, healthy dishes. As well as more standard staples – crisp gem lettuce, cucumber and perfectly ripe tomatoes two ways (cherry and vine-ripened) – characterful extras included radishes, fennel, beetroot and pomegranate, while the addition of a small bottle of organic, extra-virgin olive oil was a cute touch that we were only too happy to drizzle over our vibrant creations.

Boxxfresh 10 portion boxx

Best: For fully customisable boxes

Billing itself as a “feelgood food hub”, Boxxfresh is an innovative, family-run venture based in Hampshire that has scaled up to become a nationwide player with an impressive array of plant-based produce that – thanks to a sleek, easy-to-navigate website – is easily combined and dispatched to your door. With a minimum order of £25 and without pre-selected boxes on offer, it’s a more involved process than other companies, but we enjoyed choosing from a fortifying selection of fruit and veg, with favourite finds included earthy New Forest mushrooms, new-season rhubarb and a memorably large cos lettuce. There are plenty of optional extras, too, from vegan cheeses to oils, vinegar and baked goods, while the addition of recipe cards provides advance inspiration for your next order.

Farmdrop wild seasonal bundle

Best: For something different

While vegetable boxes may not be a staple offering from Farmdrop, an online grocer set up to bring producers in closer contact to consumers, we loved this specialist ‘bundle’, designed to give an introduction to the world of wild food. Perfect for those seeking to expand their palate and explore an alternative side to British produce, this selection of three hand-picked ingredients from The Forager in Canterbury offers an intriguing opportunity for experimentation. As well as two seasonal staples, which – in our case – proved to be heady wild fennel and deliciously savoury wild salad mix, each bundle also contains a mystery guest, concealed in a cardboard tub. Opening the lid revealed its identity as fragrant Japanese rose petals that – thanks to the provision of recipe cards  – proved transformational in an Eton mess.

The verdict: Vegetable boxes

While difficult to draw too many distinctions between much of the excellent produce found within these boxes, we felt the zero packaging veg box from Riverford to be a worthy overall winner. As well a deliciously vivid selection that paired great flavour with variety that touched upon all colours of the rainbow, we loved its plastic-free packaging and the educational element supplied via recipe and inspiration cards. Elsewhere, few things matched the show-stopping ripeness and flavour of the organic tomato box from The Tomato Stall, which certainly proved itself a worthy purchase, while – although not cheap – we also relished the culinary challenge provided by getting to grips with Farmdrop’s wild seasonal bundle.

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