That picture up there is of a scene I never thought would feature in my life. That is a big-ass pile of fruit and veg. When this delivery from Abel & Cole arrived on my doorstep, I was like a kid on Christmas day.
I’d been toying with the idea of veg boxes for a while. It made sense to save myself from the time spent trudging around with plastic carrier bag handles slicing into the creases of my fingers under the weight of a week’s worth of bananas, onions and various roots. I’m far from alone in feeling this way — in the past year, Abel & Cole’s customer base has increased by 25%, while in the wider market home delivery of organic boxes saw growth of 10.3%.
But frankly, I couldn’t find any reviews written by people I know or follow or just generally trust, so I approached the company myself, asking if they’d be interested in having me do a review. Clare, the PR I spoke to, was really friendly and sorted it all out for me quickly, despite my awkward delivery specifications (more on that later!).
The growing of organic food is a practise that requires a lot of financial risk, hard work and dedication to stick to — farms have to be pesticide-free for 2 to 5 years before they even get certified as being organic. In a climate like ours, managing to do all this and come out with product that the fussy modern shopper deems good looking enough to eat is no mean feat. It’s not just a sticker you whack onto a lettuce so that you can charge 50p more.
So naturally, I expected this to be reflected in the price. And doing price comparisons with supermarkets (online shopping), it was. With comparable items – although in some of the supermarkets there were no comparable items, or items were not organic – Tesco came out cheapest (£13.09), followed by Asda (£14.27), Sainsbury’s (£15.74), Waitrose (£15.98), and Ocado (£16.77). Once you factor in travel, the higher prices of local “convenience” versions of these stores, or delivery, it might not make much of a difference, but overall Abel & Cole were marginally more expensive.
The medium fruit & veg box (£18) contained:
1 red pepper
One of my favourite things about the delivery is that I didn’t have to eat broccoli, which is probably the food I hate the most. You can look ahead to see what the coming week’s box will contain — great for people who meal-plan — and if there’s something you can’t stand (blurgh, broccoli), you can substitute it for something else. In my case, I got celery, which ended up being a handy accompaniment for the houmous I made and to bulk out risotto. And if you want more of something, you can add that to your box provided it’s in season.
But what I didn’t know, despite having heard of Abel & Cole before, is that you can buy pretty much all of your groceries from there if you want and can narrow down your choices according to dietary needs and preference, including gluten free, vegan, and Fairtrade. Oh, and you can get cakes, and baking kits. It’s all incredible flexible and, well, friendlier than most online shopping services.
When delivery day came, I woke up like a five-year-old on Christmas morning, trying to peek out the window to see if
Santa the delivery man had been. My flat isn’t an easy place to deliver to, as there’s no shed or porch to leave things in, and I’m pretty sure my neighbours wouldn’t answer the door. I’d given the delivery man the best instructions I could, asking him to leave my box under the dodgy bit of wood in the bin area in front of the flat, and crossed my fingers that no-one would nick it while I was at work.
Well, no-one did steal it, because by the time I left for work, it was there. I obviously struck lucky with my area, living in a place where A&C deliveries come early.
I wasn’t disappointed — it was all good quality. But more importantly, the variety of fruit and vegetables meant that not everything needed to be used in the first few days, but rather it ripened at different rates and lasted longer than a week. It also meant that I was challenged to find new recipes, to be innovative with ingredients I wasn’t familiar with.
The Abel & Cole cook book also comes with the first order. Living in a small flat, my collection is small and I prefer to rely on instincts. But this book had me running to my flatmate to show her something else amazing every time I flipped through it. I’d put page markers in it for later use but there’s no point because I’d be marking about 80% of the pages — even on recipes for vegetables and fruits I’ve not heard of before — from savoury tarts to sweet and sticky puddings. Alongside beautiful photography and inspiring recipes, there are storage tips and flavour pairing ideas throughout. If you buy only one cook book this year, I implore you to make it this one. You won’t regret it.
Alongside this, Abel & Cole have an excellent collection of recipes online, sorted by ingredient, that’s open to everyone, no log-ins required.
Overall, the fruit & veg box was great quality and inspired me to try to new things — I couldn’t have been happier with what was delivered.
Recipes made using veg box ingredients
(Apologies for the not-very-inspiring photos. I just don’t have a chopping board that big — it’s a lot of food!.)