Guy’s news: Still waiting

For the second time this month, the snow has melted from our fields just in time for more rain. The plough, greased and ready to go, must stay in the shed, and the plants must stay in the greenhouse, or at best be moved to the yard.

We can’t put off ploughing forever; already we are clearing the last of our kales, and cabbages and leeks will soon run to seed. There is one cheering sight in the fields: Red Russian kale is having a last hurrah, telescoping upwards with a superbly tasty stem that we will pick for the 100% UK veg box this week. Looking at sales of this box – formerly known by some within Riverford as the ‘Dogma Box’ – I am delighted to see that last week they were approaching 6% of all veg box sales. This may seem modest, but it is 50% up on last year and treble the year before. I have been known to despair at the gulf between the often-professed enthusiasm for all things local and seasonal, and the contents of many proponents’ fridges, but it seems things are changing; I commend the 2000+ of you who have taken the plunge and are embracing the UK seasons. We have another month before things get really hard in the ‘Hungry Gap’ of May and June, before improving as tomatoes, cucumbers etc. start in July. If you find the 100% UK box too challenging, consider a pragmatic weekly alternation with one of the other boxes. Sometimes it’s better to bend than to break; by voting with your box choice, you are putting a welcome pressure on us to up our game and do all we can to maximise what we can grow at home.

Another homegrown treat has survived the snow to liven up all our plates: we have started foraging for wild garlic in local woods, mostly bordering the River Dart between Totnes and Dartmoor. As always, our skilled and eager-eyed pickers do their best to avoid the toxic Lords-and-Ladies and Dog’s Mercury which share the same shady habitat under mature deciduous woodland. We then sort through what we’ve picked again in the barn to give 99.999% confidence; even so, if you see any unfamiliar leaves, please discard them and let us know, preferably with an emailed photo. As an added reassurance, in the name of honour and science I have eaten small quantities of each and lived to tell the unpleasant tale.

Guy Singh-Watson

47 responses to “Guy’s news: Still waiting

  1. Always a pleasure to read your blog on a Friday morning. Well written as usual and inspiring.

  2. Regarding the 100% UK box, it is something I switch to occasionally. I’m one of those who in principle ought to favour it, and I do appreciate you providing it. For me it is slightly too big and that is the main reason I don’t chose it more often. Though to be honest, even if it were smaller I admit I still wouldn’t opt for it every week as I’m not a big potato eater. Will certainly try to consider it more often in future.

    • Hi Lesley, some interesting feedback re the size and potato option; thank you. In an ideal world we’d have a size and contents options to suit everyone, in your case a small potato free UK box, but as you can image that would be tricky, and too much choice is never a good thing.

      • Thank you. Yes, I fully understand about not being able to suit everyone. I have changed this week’s order to the UK box and will make something I can freeze for another week so there is no waste.

  3. I’d love to give the 100% uk box a go if it also came in a larger size I usually get a bumper box and it looks to small.

    • Hi Jenny, have you considered ordering a UK box and then topping up with a few other veg extras? Could be an option!

  4. What area do you cover?

  5. What areas do you cover?

  6. I too recently discovered the UK box but agree it’s a bit too large.

    I know I keep rabbitting on about it but please, please please can we have the dirt left on our spuds and carrots? It’s a natural preservative and I’m really fed up with my potatoes going green and my carrots shrivelling up!

  7. thanks for the blog post; noticed about the UK box, and have signed up to give it a go.
    Know what you mean, Guy, about what may be professed, and then the reality.
    Interested to hear on the radio today a programme talking about why people do things eg recycling etc; I’ve become increasingly cynical about it, having tried and succeeded for many years in a previous location to live more lightly. Where I live now it seems ridiculously difficult, and I’ve sadly given up quite a bit.

  8. Since I’ve joined Riverford I’ve been a regular UK veg box subscriber. To be honest, i wouldn’t have joined if it wasn’t an option. It is pretty big for me (I’d love a small version of it!) so I’ve now opted to alternate between this and ordering a selection of the ´extra’ UK grown veg for weeks when I haven’t managed to finish the box. This allows me to manage the potato/carrot pile-up and still keep it seasonal. I gotta say, I really look forward to getting this every week. Please do keep on upping the seasonal game – it is appreciated!

  9. I’m a relatively recent signer-upper to the UK veg box. Too large for us, so we get one every fortnight and on the off weeks add various items to our regular milk and eggs to get over the £15 delivery threshold. I like the peace and quiet of getting much the same things every week – makes meal planning possible with 20% of concentration i.e. with mind busy elsewhere, and no funny things to use up that don’t really go with anything else.

    Desideratum: a 3 kg bag of potatoes. But it’s OK, I can order 2 × 1.5kg.

    Singh-Watson, eh? Have I missed something, or have you only recently changed your name/sign-off? Haven’t seen a man change his name on marriage since I left Germany 20 years ago. Good egg.

  10. (Re my last: I’m a Brit who lived in Germany, by the way, not a German now living in the UK. Loved it.)

  11. I used to get the UK box and did like it. But I also want fruit and confess that laziness has directed me towards the medium fruit and veg box recently as it saves me having to add more than 1 thing to my basket. I will try to do better!

  12. We mostly follow a low carb/high fat diet so don’t eat potatoes or too many other starchy root vegetables. This rules out the UK box for us. We love Riverford dairy products and always add whole milk to our order. Enjoyed the Greek style yogurt last week. Look forward to a box most weeks.

  13. Carolyn Westlake

    Yes, The 100% box is too big for me. I’ll take another look though and see if a fortnightly one with top ups if other items in the intervening week would work for me.

  14. Carolyn Westlake

    How about a low carb box? With some double cream and cheese added for high fat? Just saying….😊

  15. I have switched over to the UK veg box for every second week. I have been gardening for about two years and for me it is good to see the veg that I try to grow myself only bigger and better the Riverford way with much more flavour and this gives me a goal to work towards with my own veg.
    I make alot of soup this time of year so as soon as I get my box I start making things I can freeze plus I find that everything stays fresh for a week or more- I follow the storage advice in my Riverford recipe binder.
    I love apples so along with the UK veg box I get a bag of apples and the fruit bag. That way I can get the fruit on a regular order every second week along with my box. On alternate weeks I get the salad box – this week I have blood oranges as well. I already have enough root veg left to have a nice salad as a refreshing change. I am from Canada so I am just really intrigued by the wild, weird and wonderfully odd veg like the Jerusalem Artichokes in my last box. All in all I recommend the 100% Uk box as one to try at least once a month. The occassional rogue veg hiding down at the bottom that you have never met before makes it a fun lesson in how to cook something that takes you out of your comfort zone.

  16. We often have the 100% UK box, supplementing it with fruit or a fruit bag, but from time to time add an ‘exotic’ extra as a treat – this week it was a pineapple – a bit of variety is always good!

  17. I wish I could buy the UK box, but as a vegan family with 4 small children, I think they would cry with boredom, especially at this time of year. Can’t be dogmatic about everything…

  18. Interesting to hear the comments about the all-uk veg box – I would have no trouble with the potatoes…but beetroot I’ve tried In vain to like it and pickled is the only tolerable form for this vegetable which tastes of sweet dirt to me!

    • Julie, you might enjoy Beetroot & Horseradish soup! I don’t like either beetroot or horseradish, and loathe beetroot in vinegar, but love this soup. Basically a few beetroot steamed in their skins, then peeled and added to stock of your choice, and simmered with a bit of parsnip and readied red onion and thyme, to increase sweetness and moderate flavour. Add seasoning. Puree in processor. Pour out the quantity you want and reheat, stirring in a swirl of creamed horseradish sauce. TIP: do a large quantity in a large pan and freeze in batches. I’ve just used up some from over 2 years ago, and it was delicious.

  19. We sometimes swap to UK box on weeks when we need potatoes. Our main reason not to choose it is Jerusalem artichokes! I know they’re easy to grow organically, but does anyone actually like them?

    • I’d love to know the answer to that as we think they are horrible – they even look horrible when cooked, sort of greyish!

  20. Tis great to hear that the UK only box is flourishing at last, I first started using that wee beastie a couple of years back when it was mentione it was struggling, I now have one each week! But what’s this about it being too big for some? I’m on my own and it’s about right for me, OK I do end up with occasional extra’s but they get preserved in some way against the dreaded Hunger Months! Oh and yes Jerusalem Artichokes, what are they good for absolutely nothing (to quote the song) I’ve tried a few things but dear me they are just not my style – still my compost heap loves ’em, along with a lot of that green leaf stuff!

  21. I started ordering from Riverford because of the uk box. We have it every week and it is perfect for a family of three. We love that there is hardly any plastic.

  22. Am going to try 100% UK box now. Jerusalem artichokes – having never, ever eaten them before, I roasted some and made soup with the rest and I thought they were delicious! Just saying….!

  23. I will change to the 100% UK box – if only to stop having to keep finding ways to use butternut squash and broccoli every week. At the moment, the UK box seems to provide the staples better then the medium veg box I usually receive.

  24. We tend to change what we buy each week, largely dependant upon box contents. We will have the UK box providing it has what we like and need for any particular week – as soon as squash (for example) appears, it’s off to another box or simply not having a box at all and just buying individual items from the veg list! Uk / local is important but not something to be dogmatic about. I am also intrigued by the change to Singh-Watson . . . .

  25. I am late in this reply. I have to comment on the Jerusalem artichokes.
    Followed the recipe card: scrubbed down well, not peeled, cut into chunks- cutting off the small knobbly pieces, tossed in oil and roasted with some leeks and red pepper. I really enjoyed them; the key is getting them cooked just right and not too much – ( advice on recipe card) The taste and texture similiar to aubergine. I think the key to this is trust Guy and his efforts for introducing new vegetables when there is little else around. And follow the recipe card for inspiration.

  26. Guy, Any chance of trialing a plastic – free box to see how popular that would be?

  27. I have tried the UK box several times. At this time of year, we seem to end up overrun with onions & beetroot…
    What I find a bit frustrating is that when I’m ordering single items of veg, is that you can’t see right away which country they’re from, whereas with the boxes, it’s obvious without having to go into each individual item.

    • I have thought that too, but am assuming it’s because the origin of produce changes throughout the year and updating the website for each individual product plus continually ensuring it is accurate would be an onerous task. So I tend to look at the contents of the larger boxes to get an idea of where individual products are from.

      • mm, whilst it might feel onerous, I strongly feel I would like more info about the vege sometimes – even the variety sometimes is a mystery…. and for people like us who care about it, it feels essential to have this info.

    • Hi,
      After you click on the veg or fruit that you want on the right hand side are the sections in grey that lists:
      Cooking, Storage, Season, More Info, Country of Origin
      It only takes a few seconds to click on each one and get some ideas for cooking as well.
      If you scroll down the page to the purple banners and click on
      : find out more- recipes: just put in the veg and a selection of recipes will come up. I use this all the time. I would highly recommend getting the Riverford Farm Cookbook. It costs only £9.99 and is well worth the price for lots of recipes for just about all the veg.
      Plus, with the boxes if there is something you dont want to get go into your account settings: preferences and Veg Alert. Choose what you dont want and when you place your order an alert will come up to say there will be the veg that you dont like so you have the option to choose a different box or get together some cooking ideas before you get the veg you dont really like. I dont like leeks so I give them to my lovely older neighbour.

      • Thanks Kate – I’ve been getting veg from Riverford for years, so I know that I can find the origin by going in to the details. However, if I’m in a hurry, I don’t want to have to go into each individual page & I tend to shop just off the front ‘veg’ page. If they could put (UK) or other after the veg there, as they do in the lists for the boxes, it would make life easier. I guess that the issue is that at different times of the year, things come from different places and they would need updating all the time.

  28. Getting overrun with beetroot happens with any box! I just cancel my boc now if there’s beetroot as I can’t eat it.

  29. And to add. Guy prides himself on where the fruit and veg comes from and it is important to him to acknowledge all the farmers that grow what we get in our boxes. It is also a way to get an insight into what grows well in other counties and a nice introduction to the farmers themselves. I think this is why the bags of apples and potatoes always say something about where they have been grown and the name of the farmer. I have come to realise that for Guy what is grown counts for as much as who has grown it. I really like this information because it brings a sense of community- you get to know the growers and to me this is one of the things that makes Riverford so meritable and Guy very respected.
    Now I will get down from my veg box!

  30. I’m guilty of not ordering the U.K. box as much as I could – my main reason for not doing so is that I often don’t want white onions and potatoes – love the red former and eat a lot of pasta and rice so don’t always get through the spuds. I’m not fazed by root veg generally and try to keep seasonal but do feel rubbish if I don’t have loads of green veg. Any chance of a U.K. box option without onions and potatoes?! Maybe I’m alone but suspect there might be others out there.

  31. When we first started getting a box we got the uk one, but found it a bit of a mission to get through it as my boyfriend works away midweek. I want to enjoy the veggies not see them as a chore! If there was a small uk box we would definitely get it at least fortnightly.

  32. It sounds like there is demand for a smaller UK veg box, with no or fewer potatoes, onions and plastic.

    If Riverford truly want to grow and sell more UK veg, and be more environmentally friendly, why don’t you start here?

  33. Maybe you could put UK onions in the non-UK boxes? Currently we have Dutch onions. Could you do more to put UK veg in your best selling boxes?

  34. Guy – You can (almost) do no wrong in my eyes with regard to your ethos and wonderful organic produce but I was sad to read your comments about the UK veg box. As a Riverford customer for many years, I well remember sticking with the never ending white cabbage and roots of the early boxes plus acres of mud attached. Oh, the relief when there were other veg and even fruit included. Now the choice is amazing and you have made the business thrive. But what’s that you say? UK box only? I seem to recall that you explained why fruit and veg came from other countries and the benefits to those farmers of doing so. If you feel like that about UK produce, are you suggesting that Riverford should return to a seasonal only policy and that there should be no offerings from abroad. Does that also apply to wine? Maybe I’m being thick here but I’m not sure what you are actually saying?

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