Katy Beskow shows you how to get the most from the seasonal vegetables delivered to your door…
Choose the box that’s right for you
There are many veg box companies offering varying packages, services and subscriptions. You may prefer all-organic produce, companies who support local farmers or extra specific add-ons (such as pulses) that can be delivered with your veg box. Before ordering, consider the size of the box you require based on the size of your family and what you already have available in your fridge and garden. Many services allow you to opt out of excess root vegetables, so you have a more varied selection other than potatoes.
Store it right
Now you have a glorious selection of veg, store them right for the best flavour, longevity and to avoid waste. Keep root veg such as potatoes, onions, carrots and squash in a cool, dark place, preferably in a cotton bag. Fresh herbs can be preserved by trimming away the ends and adding to a glass of water, then refrigerating (basil is best kept at room temperature). Store salad leaves, cucumber, tomatoes and radishes in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving for best flavour. Often, vegetables from a box are unwashed, so wash thoroughly in clean water before use.
Have a good rummage in the box and discover what is available to cook with. There will be vegetables you are familiar with and perhaps unusual vegetables that will be fun to learn about! Think about how many meals you need to cook and how many people to cook for. There are plenty of meal planning resources available online, from blank weekly planners to clever ways of using that unusual vegetable. Meal planning will also allow you to think about any extras you might need to buy, such as rice, canned beans or noodles, and help you avoid making any spontaneous, costly purchases at the supermarket.
Use those leafy greens
Spinach, watercress, kale and chard will have the shortest lifespan, therefore plan to eat these items first. Leafy greens are not just about salad –whizz spinach into a strawberry and banana smoothie, stir watercress through homemade minestrone soup and throw kale into fresh stir-fries. Get creative with how to use these delicate leaves to add essential vitamins and minerals to dishes, as well as fresh flavours and interesting textures. Stir rainbow chard through a chickpea curry for a colourful, bitter-sweet twist to mid-week meal.
Freeze and preserve
If there are vegetables that you don’t want to use up straight away, many can be frozen. Simply peel and dice into bite-size pieces that you can use at a later date for curries, casseroles and risottos. Vegetables that freeze well include butternut squash, sweet potato, peas, sweetcorn and herbs. Pickling and preserving is very popular again and is a tangy addition to any dish. Try pickling finely sliced radishes in rice vinegar with mustard seeds and serving with a Thai green curry. Gift your friends and family a homemade chutney with your veg box produce; caramelised onion chutney is always a winner.
Love the seasons
One of the benefits of having a veg box is always having a wide variety of vegetables according to the season. This means you’ll never get bored of buying the same old vegetables and creating the same meals. Produce tastes better in season, as well as being better for the environment without transportation across continents. Having seasonal yields of vegetables makes it cheaper too, so you’ll have plenty to cook and preserve. This old fashioned way of eating is a sustainable, natural way to create and enjoy your meals.
Exhausted all of your meal ideas, but still have vegetables left in your box? Time to think about how you can use them in desserts and sweet bakes. For many years, carrots, parsnips and courgettes have been used to bake moist and fluffy cakes, which have become classics in most cookbooks. For a modern twist, used puréed beetroot in vegan chocolate brownies for extra depth of flavour or add pumpkin and spices to a vegan banana loaf. A chef’s best kept secret is to mix creamy avocado into chocolate mousse, for the smoothest dessert that everyone will love (and no one will know it contains avocado!).
Star of the show
For too long, vegetables have been considered a side dish to a meal. Step outside of that box and start thinking of vegetables as the main event. Why set aside colourful and flavoursome vegetables? Make them the star of the show! Try grilling cauliflower steaks with a little harissa brushed over, served with parsley-infused tabbouleh; or perhaps roast butternut squash until sweet and stir through fragrant risotto rice. Add in extra protein and flavour by toasting seeds and nuts and sprinkling over, or serve with a side of spiced dukkah. Stuffed mushroom burgers are fantastic for that summer BBQ!
If you’ve overestimated the size of veg box you need, or there’s vegetables you don’t plan on using, consider gifting them to neighbours, family or friends rather than wasting them. Or go the extra mile and create a meal for them rather than just handing them the veg. Sadly, many food-banks and charities don’t accept fresh or unpackaged foodstuffs, due to food safety and hygiene. To give to someone in need, consider batch cooking a pot of something warming, such as three-bean chilli, sealing in individual cartons and donating to the homeless.
Recycle the box
Unlike plastic-wrapped vegetables you’ll find in the supermarket, your veg box produce is likely to be delivered ‘naked’ in a cardboard box or crate. Some schemes can take away the box and reuse it for your next order, but if this is not an option, use the crate in your garden to grow your own vegetables.
About the author
Katy Beskow is a cook, food writer and cookery tutor with a passion for good food. You’ll find her creating new recipes for her blog, demonstrating at food festivals, writing for magazines and teaching modern vegan cooking- so if you need her, she’ll be in the kitchen! Food is her number one love and she hopes to change the general perception of vegan food, by showcasing what is possible with seasonal and fresh foods. Katy now live in Yorkshire and cooks in her tiny, yet fully functional kitchen! Find Katy on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. www.littlemissmeatfree.com.