When we started buying organic food we decided we had to get smarter about what we bought – no more throwing out a plastic bag full of spoiled vegetables each week! With some menu planning, we came to know just how many of which vegetables we needed.
Seasonality is blurred by long-distance trucking and modern markets. Bit by bit we learned more about the local seasonality of fruit and vegetables and adjusted our weekly planned meals accordingly. This process accelerated dramatically when we started going to the local fruit and vegie swaps. Whatever is growing prolifically in people's backyards such that there's surplus to share is most definitely what's in season locally!
Cooking with whatever comes in a seasonal box seems like a challenge I'm ready for and the natural next step.
I've discovered not all seasonal boxes are equal. There's an important trade-off and if you know this, I reckon it'll help you find the right box scheme for you.
Retailers pride themselves on knowing their customers. It seems logical then that some schemes would try and second guess what their customers want. So tomatoes and bananas in early Winter. But fruit and vegies that are in season now in Queensland are surely more expensive.
Other schemes will take whatever's cheapest in the market – definitely uber-seasonal and hyper local. Carrots that aren't perfect looking to make “first grade” are sold as juicing carrots. They were only a little odd looking - perfect to me! I value these boxes because they maximise my dollar, create a market for produce that isn't physically perfect and presumably have low food miles!
There are quite a number of organic collectives in our area. Interestingly I've heard there's a mix of values and aims within these groups too. Experienced box recipients can guess who that week's buyer was based on what came in the box!
Here's another consideration. I find the ingredients in the “seasonal-locally” box inspire meals. 'Professor Google' makes finding any recipe a cinch. So two parsnips arrived in the box and, hey what do you know, I like parsnip soup! In contrast, I found there were too many types of vegetables in the box trying to please everyone, and too few of each to suggest specific recipes. Vegetable stir-fry and vegetable soup are always recipes for the end of the week to use up the remains of the box.
A seasonal box is very convenient - why not try it? Local services that deliver throughout Hobsons Bay are listed in the sustainable food guide. Lest you think you can't do without bananas, let me share this with you: I buy bananas separately!
Written by Kate Leslie (document links updated 22 August 2014)