Most of the vegetables we sell are pretty familiar to most of our customers, but there are some things we put in our veg boxes that occasionally catch people unawares! Below we list a few of the more unusual vegetables you might find in your box from us, together with some notes on what to expect from us regarding more familiar fare such as beetroot, carrots, and peas.
But first, a word on recipes. We try hard to make our veg boxes as varied as possible from week to week, but we do appreciate that they can get a bit samey, especially in the winter and early spring. A downside of the “local, seasonal, low impact” food movement is that you just can’t get tomatoes in February. But you can get swedes, parsnips and cabbages! Lots of them. Week after week. Therefore, it helps if you have a good stock of recipes to hand in order to introduce a bit of variety into the kitchen. If you’re out of inspiration, you could try Laura Washburn’s excellent blog Farm Box Days or the website Veg Box Recipes, or get yourself a copy of the Boxing Clever Cookbook.
An edible member of the thistle family, we sometimes sell these in the summer this article explains how to cook them.
A close relative of the sunflower, but grown for its potato-like tubers. An occasional winter standby in our veg boxes see here for some recipes. Beware the effect they have on some people’s digestive systems!
A luxury crop in the early spring – steam lightly and serve with melted butter. Yum!
A healthy and versatile vegetable, if you know how! In the spring we sell bunched beetroot with leaves – if you’re not going to eat the beetroot right away, it’s best to twist the leaves off to prolong the freshness of the bulbs. The leaves and their stems can be treated like spinach or chard, and cooked with oil and garlic or stir fried. In the winter we sell the bulbs only. Beetroot bulbs can be peeled and grated raw for salads, roasted in their skin or boiled in water for multiple uses – the skin comes off easily after boiling.
This is sort of a cross between purple sprouting broccoli and mustard leaves. Some people like to eat it raw, but most prefer to steam or stir fry it lightly.
Depending on the time of year, we sell bunched carrots with their leaves on or maincrop carrots without. If you’re not going to eat the bunched carrots right away, it’s best to twist the leaves off to prolong freshness.
We don’t usually sell standard cauliflowers, but we do grow these amazing-looking Romanesco cauliflowers in the summer. Cut them up like broccoli florets and cook them just the same.
A rather ugly-looking winter root vegetable related to celery, but in our opinion with a superior and more subtle flavour, as well as being more versatile. Remove the skin with a potato peeler – the rest can then be grated raw for salads, or boiled/roasted whole, or sliced and cooked in a steamer or in stir fries. See here for more celeriac recipes – celeriac remoulade is one of our favourites.
We grow spinach when we can in the spring and the winter – the rest of the time we grow rainbow chard with its beautiful multicoloured stems. It can be treated much the same as spinach, though it’s slightly coarser – chop up the leaves and stems and steam, or add to soups and stir-fries. Our favourite cooking method, as with spinach, is to put minced garlic in a saucepan on a low-ish heat with olive oil or butter and then add the chopped chard, stir, cover and sweat it until the chard is tender.
Although our boxes are predominantly veg boxes, we occasionally put items of freshly-picked fruit in that we’ve grown such as rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants. Customers usually seem to welcome the change, and we hope you will too.
A leafy winter staple from the cabbage family. We grow several different varieties – curly kale, cavolo nero with its long, savoyed and strap-like leaves, and Red Russian. All of them can be cooked the same way – much like spinach or chard.
We occasionally sell this in the summer and autumn. It’s another member of the cabbage family, grown for its swollen root which can be light green or purple in colour. Peel it with a potato peeler and then boil until tender, or slice and steam or stir-fry. You can find some more kohl rabi ideas here.
Our peas are usually the ‘sugar snap’ variety, available in the early summer. There’s no need to pod them, they can be eaten whole. It’s possible to steam or stir-fry them, though we usually find they disappear quickly enough when left in the kitchen raw!
We sell bags of cut mixed salad leaves year-round. The leaves are not pre-washed as with sealed supermarket salad bags, so we recommend that you wash them at home before eating. Contents vary through the year, and may include leaves from lettuces, spinach, edible flowers, rocket, mustards, Oriental leaves like komatsuna and tatsoi, and other leaves like purslane and edible chrysanthemum. The flavour can get a bit spicy over the winter with the preponderance of mustard leaves – if it becomes too much, a brief stir-fry should put them back in their place!
We grow various small and large squashes (like pumpkins) for the winter – you may find whole small squashes, or chopped segments of large squashes in your veg box. Whole squashes should be cut in half (the skins are sometimes pretty tough – a large, sharp knife is useful!) and the pips and pith removed from the centre. Then they can be cut into smaller pieces if large and steamed, boiled or roasted. It’s easiest to remove the skin after cooking (or just leave it on the squash when you serve it and let your grateful diners figure it out for themselves…) There are lots of recipes for stuffed squash, or honey-mustard basted squash and other such delights available.