When we deliver your veg box you know you’re getting fresh, local produce, but it’s easy to forget that both your health and the environment also benefit hugely from eating seasonal, well constructed meals. Not only are fruits and vegetables picked at the height of their season ripe, fully developed and yielding maximum nutrients; they also provide the most flavour so your meals can satisfy you both in terms of taste and nutritional value. Also, the more exposure the veg has to the sun the higher the level of antioxidants it contains, so the less time in transport the more benefit you’ll get from it, and of course, the less carbon emissions used in getting it onto your plate. Sometimes, the food we eat is greater than the sum of its parts. A lot of the ingredients we put together are for taste, texture and aroma but there is a lot to be gained from the interactions between certain foods, interactions called Food Synergy. This is why it’s important you eat varied meals and why we rotate what’s in our boxes. Certain vitamins are absorbed into the body easily, others need help along the way. For example, Vitamin C increases the absorption of Non-heme Iron, which is likely to be the main source of Iron in a vegetarian or vegan diet. This means that by combining leafy greens, nuts, seeds and dairy with Vitamin C rich fruits you’ll be helping your body to absorb the Iron needed for healthy blood, and eating these foods together is more beneficial than simply taking a vitamin tablet once in the morning. And it’s not just iron absorption you can help along; Vitamin A requires fats which can be found in olive oil, avocado and nuts and the vitamin D found in eggs and mushrooms aids your body in extracting Calcium from dairy, almonds, beans, fish and tofu. Diversity is key in getting the most from the foods that you eat and the natural cycle of the seasons, the produce that comes with it and the interactions between foods is already perfectly tailored to provide what we need and when, it’s just a case of eating what we grow. This is what we love about food and what forms the ethos of Bristol Veg Boxes; we believe you should be able to eat local, seasonal food that provides what you need for a happy, healthy body and it needn’t be complicated. Simply order your box and your extras and we’ll do the rest!
There’s no reason not to leave the peel on Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots, but even if you prefer to remove the skin first there is some use you can make of them before they reach your caddy or home compost. In fact, gram for gram you can find more Potassium, Calcium and B Vitamins in the skin of a Potato than in the flesh and Carrot peel is also packed with Vitamin C, so eating them not only reduces waste but carries health benefits you would have otherwise put aside. While you might not be in a rush to chow down on the tough, fibrous skin of Squash or Gourd, there are some simple ways to squeeze extra nutrients out of your veg box. It’s easy to forget that stock cubes aren’t the only way of making a soup base, and making your own veg stock is a great way to use your peel while being quick, easy and freezable. It also allows you to be creative and experiment with different vegetables, seasoning and ratios to really add your own flair to your broth. Once you’ve extracted the nutrients from your peels you can compost them knowing you’ve used them for everything they’re worth. Sometimes you can find satisfaction in the simplest of things. If you fancy something a bit more luxurious remember you can always bake peels along with Beetroot into Root Veg Crisps and flavour them however you like, be it Garlic, Curry or otherwise, and as they’re baked rather than fried, they’re a healthier alternative to store-bought crisps. Saving that, makes for great fertiliser!
We can find signals everywhere in nature. Fruits and vegetables have their own ways of letting us know when they’re ripe and ready to eat in their colour, texture and by falling from the plants on which they grow, but there are other signals we can use that tell us in which way fruits and vegetables are nutritionally beneficial. Of course, the more colours you see on your plate the more balanced your meal is likely to be, and the more pleasing on the eye, but it’s good to be familiar with what you’re getting from certain fruits and vegetables and they’ve kindly provided some simple indicators to help you with this. Reds, Blues and Purples are often rich in antioxidants that limit the damage from free radicals, contain Potassium, Vitamins A and C and folate, great for your eyesight and preventing certain infections, plus they look great on your plate or in your lunchbox! White vegetables have their own set of properties from Polyphenol compounds which can lower the risk of heart disease, and Garlic in particular contains Allicin, lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol. These foods also tend to be a good source of Potassium, Vitamin C, Niacin and Riboflavin. Even if they don’t add much to the colour on your plate their nutritional benefit gives these vegetables a part in balancing your meals. We all know it’s important to eat your greens, and of course Green fruits and vegetables get their colour from their Chlorophyll content, known for its skill healing properties, detoxifying the blood and building a strong immune system. Other benefits of these fruits and vegetables come in the form of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Folate, so if you can sneak some greens onto every plate and into every bowl you’re well on your way! Orange and Yellow indicates high Carotenoid levels, both improving the strength of your immune system and lowering the risk of heart disease. These fruits and vegetables are often also high in Folate and Potassium, alongside bringing some vibrancy to a dish! Of course, you needn’t meticulously plan meals to get the range of benefits; a simple, varied and colourful array of vegetables covers all the bases and plays into your creativity in the kitchen. Luckily for you, you’ll find a range of vegetables on rotation in your box every week, leaving you to create your own culinary masterpiece!
It’s not the best looking vegetable you’ll find in your veg box. Resembling a hybrid of a ginger root and a bunch of parsley, it’s easily overlooked in favour of colourful beetroots, carrots and leafy greens; but given a chance the Celeriac will add an edge to a mash, garden salad or make for a different take on potato chips. Grown all year around but typically best between August and Spring, they offer us a delicate, nutty flavour while also being high in fibre, potassium and Vitamin B6, making them great to use in place of potatoes when you want to fancy something up. In fact, if you really wanted to get fancy, Celeriac can be grated raw over a salad in a similar way to truffles. If you’re just looking for something quick and easy, you can use it to make a soup with milk, plenty of black pepper and garlic, or alternatively grate and mix with mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice to make Celeriac Remoulade. By eating it raw you boost the Vitamin K from your meal, with just one cup containing almost all of your recommended daily intake it’s a simple and delicious way to balance your days nutrition last minute. The Celeriac has other health benefits too; it’s filled with antioxidants vital for building a strong immune system, fibre for aiding digestion and Vitamin B, which reduces stress and can help improve your sleeping pattern. It may not be the first thing you pull out of your box, but its flavour and nutritional benefits make this an understated winter vegetable.
Spinach and Chard. Kale, Cabbage and Cress. Foods heralded for their medicinal value throughout ancient history and praised by doctors and nutritionists today, but relegated by some to ‘hippy food’ to be scoffed at and left on the plate. There’s a bit of polarised attitude towards these foods, largely through the sudden rise of processed and pre-prepared foods, and we probably all have a friend who immediately jumps to ‘rabbit food’ when they’re served leafy greens. The thing is though, it’s not often you see demotivated rabbits. It doesn’t look like they struggle to get out of bed. They have the energy to hop about all day long and need I mention some of the other activities rabbits are known for? Of course, we’re human beings and not rabbits, but that’s not to say we can’t share the benefits of this food group with our mammalian friends. From bone health to promoting microbial communities in your gut, the medicinal properties are evident and this is why we love to include Kale, Chard and other greens in your veg box! Eat them raw to get the maximum benefit, add them to stews, soups or bake them into a pie; However you like your rabbit food and whatever your working day entails, eaten as part of a balanced diet you’ll want to hop right to it!
In the UK we’re told to aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s a great start, but it’s interesting to note that across the world there are very different guidelines on what our diet should consist of. For example, Canadians are recommended twice the intake we are here at seven to ten portions, including at least one dark green and one orange vegetable. Australia recommends seven portions, five of which being vegetables, while in Greece people aim for 6 portions of vegetables alone, with three portions of fruit on top. If you get a weekly veg box from us it’s likely you’re already on top of your recommended intake, but an easy way keep track is to count 1-2-2; that’s one portion for breakfast, two for lunch and two more at tea time. A fruit juice or smoothie generally only counts as one portion no matter how much you drink over a day and, as always, if some of those portions can be eaten raw the more nutrition your body can extract from them. While five portions a day is a great start, there’s evidence that maybe we should be aiming a little higher. By having a variety of seasonal vegetables delivered right to your door you’re in the perfect position to pack more nutrition into your diet, reach recommended portions beyond what we’re told in the UK and to give your body the best defence you can against illnesses.
Our supermarkets sell about 54 million kilos of plastic every week. That’s 2000 items of plastic per year, more than 38 items a week, for every household in the UK. While some of this plastic can be recycled, a large portion of it is classed as single use plastic and ends up being exported to Malaysia, Turkey and Poland to name just a few. In 2017 we didn’t even manage to recycle half of the recyclables we used (Wales making the best effort at more than 57%), a pretty sorry figure I’m sure we all agree. In some supermarkets you might find that every item you find in your box is wrapped in plastic and in some cases sat in black, single use plastic on the shelf. In fact, a lot of the vegetables that you can buy per kilo in the supermarket are also available to buy in non-recyclable counterparts. To visibly see a years worth of your wasted plastic would be an eye opener to anyone, but as Bristol Veg Box customers you can rest assured you’re minimising waste materials and minimising your carbon footprint, just by using us. Not only are you saving on food packaging but our delivery boxes are also saved from going to landfill, so you’re actually offsetting any waste you would have created. Simple! The only extra packaging you’ll find in your box is salad wrapping and if you leave this in your box we’ll make sure it gets recycled, so rest assured that as far as your fruit and vegetables are concerned you’re creating no unnecessary waste.
Here in the UK we only see an average of 1493 hours of sunshine each year. It’s not much, but in those precious summer months we do a great job of celebrating what sun we do get. During our summer frolicking our bodies are taking in Vitamin D through our skin and storing it in our fat cells for the winter, and there’s a reason our bodies are looking forward in this way. It’s not technically a vitamin, but this hormone is essential for us to absorb minerals through our gut, into our bloodstreams and regulating the body's levels of Calcium and Phosphorus. As clever as our biology is, there’s still a chance we could be deficient in Vitamin D come the winter, particularly if you have a plant based diet, and this could lead to symptoms from fatigue, muscle pain and hair loss to depression and slowing down recovery time from cuts and scrapes. There are other common risk factors associated with a deficiency in Vitamin D such as age, weight, complexion and levels of direct exposure to sunlight (sadly even factor 8 sun screen blocks absorption!). Thankfully, there are some foods we can take advantage of to help top up your levels; Mushrooms - Already containing high levels of nutrients you can even enrich your own mushrooms by leaving them in direct sunlight, literally harvesting Vitamin D from the sun using an already healthy fungus as your medium. Milks - Here in the UK most of our cow’s milk isn’t fortified with Vitamins as it is in other parts of the world, fortunately fortified milk is slowly becoming more popular and dairy-free milks such as Almond and Soy contain plenty of Vitamin D. Eggs - Particularly the yolks! Fortified Orange Juice - Studies have shown fortified juice to be just as efficient in boosting Vitamin D as pill-based supplements, an easy way to sneak it into your diet. Tofu - It’s not just protein Tofu is rich in, it also contains a good portion of your recommended intake of Vitamin D, even better if eaten with mushrooms! As always, getting your vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced, varied diet is preferable to just topping up with supplements and luckily you can add foods rich in Vitamin D to your box from our ‘extras’ section for next week. Hopefully it won’t be long until we’re all stocking up on sunshine vitamins again!
When you have your veg box delivered you’re probably more excited about what’s in it rather than where it comes from, that’s part of the joy of having your vegetables delivered; we do the work so that you can concentrate on what’s fun, creative and delicious. What you might be less aware of is the trickle down effect buying your veg from us has on the environment, independent, local organic farmers and the food industry as a whole. One benefit in particular that’s come to light in recent years is how farming organically actually stores larger amounts of carbon in soil, reducing the quantities that get emitted into the atmosphere. It was thought, when compared to conventional agriculture, for us to switch almost entirely to organic would require more land usage and, as such, would be more draining on resources leading to a higher carbon footprint. However, recent studies looking at organics have found that there are more carbon-storing molecules in organic soil than in conventional agriculture. The soil also stored it for longer periods of time, mitigating the climate change that happens when it’s released into the atmosphere. So, how does this work? Organic soils contain 44% more of the Humic substances responsible for holding onto carbon, meaning a 26% higher potential for long-term storage of harmful emissions, and these substances can remain in soil for hundreds of years and some studies have cited closer to a thousand. It’s a significant improvement in an industry that otherwise emits 13% of global greenhouse gases. This is some serious soil! We’re all in it together and you’ve already made a contribution by choosing us to bring local, organic produce to your door. Thanks!
We’ve all heard that carrots are good for your eyesight, but what about the purple carrots you find in your veg box? The regular orange carrots we see frequently contain Beta-Carotene, the pigment that gives them their colour, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help keep the surface of the eye hydrated and healthy, not only that Beta-Carotene itself can help with your night time and peripheral vision. So what about the purples? Surprisingly, these carrots contain twice the levels of the Beta-Carotene pigment as their orange counterparts, making them a great nutrient-rich choice if you can get a hold of them! Their deep purple colour comes from their high anthocyanin levels, linked with good cardiovascular health, which cuts through even the bright orange pigment. Plus you’ve saved some money on night vision goggles :)
When we open our veg boxes we’re looking for what’s new, fresh and colourful. It’s easy to overlook the staples when you’re getting a delivery of seasonal produce, but those same staples have their own set of surprising benefits you won’t find elsewhere. Cruciferous vegetables, named after the cross shape of their flowers, make their way into our diets fairly undetected; brussel sprouts, cauliflower and turnips are all in this family as well as kale, rocket and pak choi, so chances you’re getting are you’re getting the benefit of meals rich in folate and vitamin K without having to think too much into it. But there’s more to this family of plants than just the richness of their vitamins, and this comes in the form of Phytonutrients. These Phytonutrients help your body to do the real smart stuff; enhancing communication between cells, repairing DNA and detoxifying carcinogens before they have their full impact on your body. These lesser discussed nutrients aren’t essential to keep you alive, but they go a long way in limiting and repairing damage to the delicate balance of cells and information happening in your body. Luckily, just by eating the contents of your veg box every week you’re getting the benefits of Phytonutrients from a variety of Cruciferous vegetables which, as always, is the best way to get them into your diet. Sorted!
It’s completely up to you what you do with the vegetables in your box. We want you to be free to experiment and make it your own, that’s the beauty of it. But there’s one thing we’d like you to do with your meal creations; share them with your loved ones. We’ve all felt the buzz of sitting down to a balanced, well thought through meal with friends, family or strangers and there are several factors that contribute to that contented, sociable feeling. As far as our mental health, a sense of rhythm and regularity gives you structure and plays into your feeling of contentment and security. Dedicated socialising time is hugely beneficial to your mood throughout the day and gives you an opportunity to bring up the things you want to talk about, and it’s always easier to get down to it when you’re focused on your meal. The shared interaction of sitting down to a meal, and especially when you prepare the meal together, strengthens your connections with others and is perfect for building new bonds. The ritual of sitting down with your family is a reaffirming one and is an ideal opportunity to teach children about the importance of food and socialising. Lastly, sitting up straight to eat aids your digestion and when you’re engaged in conversation your eating slows down, meaning more efficient digestion, hydration and satisfaction from your meal, so even on a biological level there are benefits to by found in sharing meals. Not only that, but when the favour’s returned you can have a well deserved night off!
Sometimes when you look into your veg box mid-week you might start counting down the days until your next delivery, but at the same time you might find that in-between boxes period is when you’re at your most creative in the kitchen. We all love to have a selection of fresh ingredients at our fingertips, but as far as experimenting with foods, as with any creative practice, when you're working with limited resources you’ll need to use your ingenuity to find a work around, and this is where new ideas are dreamt up. Physical limitations such as being at the tail end of your veg box can help to get you thinking creatively and time constraints, such as prioritising what needs to be eaten first from your box, can help you focus on one task at a time; it’s the perfect opportunity to be spontaneous and get outside of our culinary comfort zone. So the next time you see start seeing the bottom of your box take it as your chance to try something new and remember that less can be more, and often times it is!
Imagine if you piled together all of the packaging you didn’t use last year by having your veg box delivered from us, plastic-free. It’s difficult to picture, no? How about the off-cuts, skins, cores and veg that turned before you’ve had chance to eat it? For me that’s a little easier to visualise… The thing is, it’s easy to forget about the odds and ends that don’t make it into your meals, especially when you’re cooking to impress and only the prettiest parts of your vegetables make the cut. I’m definitely guilty of composting things that actually hold plenty of nutritional value, but by keeping some basic waste-saving ideas in mind (or in my case written in bold letters above the compost caddy) you can maximise your veg box, save time, money and ultimately, the need to compost nutrient-rich produce. Meal planning is an obvious start, but if you’re anything like me you might fancy something different than what you’ve planned on any given day. In situations like this even a little planning five minutes before can make a big difference; weighing out how much rice, lentils or grains you’ll need can prevent you from cooking too much, and the same can be said for pasta. Of course, you could always do the complete opposite and make batches of food ready to be eaten the next day or frozen for the future! It’s the middle ground where you’re left with half a cup of cous-cous or a pointless amount of stew where you’ll find waste, so that little bit of planning can make all the difference. What you keep stocked in your cupboards can aid you in using up leftovers and offcuts in that if you have a steady supply of grains, lentils and other dry goods, as well as eggs if you eat them, you can quickly make a simple and nutritious lunch-time meal out of your leftovers. Remembering that most off-cuts can be blended to make a soup means that where you might otherwise send them to the caddy you can turn them into something warming, nourishing and waste-free. We all love the convenience of freezing food, but keeping a small box for offcuts in your freezer means that when it comes to making smoothies it’s all there, ready to go. You’ll be glad you did when you’re making smoothies in one minute flat. Marking your tupperware, or better still using clear boxes, means that it won’t end up lost in the depths of your freezer and will be at your fingertips when you need it. Lastly, if you’ve really over-done it and are feeling generous why not share with friends or neighbours? Using apps such as Olio for sharing leftovers, or even creating a WhatsApp group specifically for sharing food means that your leftovers go to good use, and you might even strengthen some connections along the way!
They come in an array of colours; purple, pink, white, golden and even multi-coloured, stripey varieties. They’re available most of the year and as the seasons change they grow larger, tougher and more resilient, but they’re always delicious raw, roasted or pickled for later (my personal favourite!). But there’s way more to these vibrant root vegetables than just their sweet, earthy taste. Even the father of medicine Hippocrates was aware of the medicinal value of Beets in his time and we’ve made plenty more discoveries about this vegetable since then. Beets are particularly high in Folate, Manganese and Copper, meaning a reduced risk of heart disease, a healthy immune system and boosted metabolism. The Nitrates present in Beetroot help move oxygen around your body, so in terms of endurance and reducing fatigue including Beets in your diet can help make exercise easier and enable you to get more from your work out. In addition to these benefits, this vegetable is also good for your liver, eyes and brain, has anti-cancer properties and as it aids blood flow it can be used to increase sexual health, if you catch my drift. As always, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ so you can rest easy knowing they’re part of your diet. Don’t forget the Beetroot green can be eaten too!
While there are no specific foods that help battle Coronavirus, it’s important that we all eat a healthy and varied diet as best we can. Luckily Andy is doing everything he can to keep you stocked with fresh, organic produce, which hopefully will alleviate some of the pressure of sourcing good food. Panic buying doesn’t help our situation, but being a curious eater and exercising some flexibility in your meals is beneficial in making sure everyone has what they need to keep healthy diets. While you might find you can’t get exactly what you’d usually buy in the supermarkets, you might find that with a bit of experimentation you might find some new favourites. With some luck the initial panic will ease off and we will be able to have the choice of foods we’ve been used to, but for now if you’re willing to be open to change and can be thrifty and creative in the kitchen it can help towards easing the stress we’re facing globally. We’ve been privileged in being able to have what we want when we want it for many years, it’s easy to forget it hasn’t always been this way and it can actually be fun making do with what you’ve got.
Following on from last week's email I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone doing what they can to make sure everyone has what they need and also thank you to Andy for his hard work sourcing vegetables for us, it can’t be easy! I’m sure you’ve been making some changes to your meal plans this week, I know I have. We’re not always going to be able to get the things we’re used to, that’s just a fact of life at the moment, but this is an ideal time to try something new and do your part in supporting local business at the same time. Tigermylk is an alternative milk made right here in Bristol from Cyperus Esculentus, better known as Tiger Nuts. While technically not a nut at all, these ‘Tubers’ are harvested all over the world for their unique flavour, sitting somewhere between an Almond and a Coconut, making for a subtle and versatile alternative to cow’s milk. Being high in Iron, Magnesium and Calcium makes this milk ideal not only for people looking for alternatives to shop-bought milk, but for people with plant-based diets looking to top up on vitamins and minerals. What makes Tigermylk even more exciting to us is the fact they are with us in reusing packaging materials where possible, avoiding the tetrapack waste we often see with milk and even experimenting with growing the plant right here in the UK to cut down on the carbon used in transportation. They have a sustainable vision in mind, so you can worry less about your carbon footprint and more about the unique flavour it can bring to tea, coffee and cereal. It’s local, nutritious, sustainable and absolutely delicious, there’s every chance you’ll end up dropping the ‘alternative’ label and calling it simply, ‘milk’!
Carry on doing what you’re doing. Right now it’s vital that we keep small businesses going where we can. Some of you have been supporting these farmers for years and Andy does a great job connecting the people who grow it with the people who need it. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that will continue through the current crisis and beyond. By getting your veg (and extras!) from us you’re supporting local farmers in doing what they do best; growing fresh, organic and seasonal produce that’s been grown in a sustainable and caring way. The beauty is in the simplicity of it all. The people who grow our produce are working hard to keep everyone in the South West supplied with honest, good food, which is just as important now as it ever has been, so I’m sure I speak for everyone involved when I say thank you for your ongoing support. Here’s to keeping healthy!
A new edition to our extras menu, Gloucestershire Raw Local Honey! There are so many health benefits to honey. It has antioxidant values, can help promote sleep and has been used as a topical treatment for burns and wounds for thousands of years. We even found pots of honey in one of the great pyramids, still well preserved and good to eat (we suggest maybe you get a fresh pot though!). Unfortunately, not all honey is created equal. Supermarket honey has often been pasteurised and processed, sucking out a lot of the antioxidant qualities as well as the pollen the bees use to craft it. Furthermore, large scale producers of honey products can bulk out their jars by adding artificial glucose. 95% of honey consumed in Britain is imported and is not labelled with a country of origin, mainly because it doesn’t actually have one, being a ‘blend of EU and non-EU honeys’. That’s pretty vague! At this point, most of what makes up natural honey is removed entirely, leaving you with empty calories and next to zero health benefits. We source this honey locally, meaning the bees made it from pollen extracted from the environment in which you actually live and it isn’t a characterless mish-mash of lesser quality honeys from all over the world. When you open it, it won’t be perfectly clear like what you see on the supermarket shelves, because it’s not meant to be. It’s opaque appearance derives from it’s natural pollen content. It’s honey as it exists in the beehive! On top of that, with this honey comes an extra reason to buy local; it not only benefits local beekeepers and their bees but also supports the ecosystem surrounding us, allowing for the pollination of the plants we love to see at this time of year. If you suffer with allergies you might find it helps build your immunity too!
When supermarkets stock all fruits and vegetables regardless of season it’s easy to forget that seasons even exist, but as we all know eating seasonal, local food not only tastes better but considerably reduces their carbon footprint. So what’s in season right now? Just take a look into your veg box! Asparagus does a good job of symbolising the start of British Springtime and this year’s batch are absolutely beautiful spears with a purple tinge, perfect for grilling, roasting or making into a wholesome soup! I like mine simple; grilled with plenty of salt and pepper. It’s also packed with Antioxidants, Vitamin E and Folic Acid, making it not only delicious but incredibly nutritious. Spring Greens - the clue’s in the name! Perfect for adding a splash of freshness to a meal it’s a versatile, seasonal vegetable that’s amazing cooked in butter, lemon or garlic. Crispy Seaweed - despite the name - is made by finely chopping and then deep frying Spring Greens. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, Chinese 5 Spice or chilli and it makes for an amazing addition to any Asian-inspired dish you can think of. In the same vein as Spring Greens - Spring Onions! A more subtle substitute for regular onions, they add a sweetness to any dish you add them to, whether cooked or diced up raw and sprinkled on top. If you’re a fan of stir-fry’s you’ll know these are like the icing on the cake! Long story short, now's the time for fresh, punchy and nutritious springtime meals. Keep an eye on your box for the local ingredients to make it happen!
June is quickly coming around, I’m sure you can feel it in the weather we’re having but also in the flavour of your fruits and vegetables as they really come into their own. Now is the time for fresh salads, grilled vegetables and tapas, so let’s take a look at what vegetables are in their prime this time of year. Aubergine! Now perfectly in season we can enjoy them salted and grilled, roasted or made into Babaganoush with Tahini for a smokey mezze dip. You might even feel inspired to create a mezze sharing platter and take to the garden for that fresh outdoor meal. Courgettes are at their best right now. I’m a fan of both Courgette Gratin and Ratatouille, easy dishes packed with fresh vegetables and herbs that are in their prime at this time of year. You could help the summer flavours shine through by mixing with mint and feta cheese and baking into a tart, served with a fruity salad (it’s a great time for Spinach and Lettuce too!). Pak Choi and Spring Onions are here and are perfect for bringing summer flavours to your stir fries, noodle soups and hotpots. I like to keep mine simple by adding Pak Choi to Mushrooms and Tofu then topping with diced Spring Onions, Mangetout and Radish. The seasonality of it makes all the difference to the dish and should be taken advantage of while it’s here! Broad Beans, French Beans and various varieties of Peas are ripe and ready to be smashed and eaten on toast, blended into a green hummus or better yet a bright green seasonal Risotto. With Asparagus and Rocket also at it’s best there’s never a better time to experiment with adding different beans to salads and bakes. I like to roast them with salt and pepper and serve as finger food alongside tapas. It’s the time for experimentation and outdoor dining, be sure to make the most of it!
When we think about the health benefits of seasonal fruits and vegetables more often than not we’re thinking about how they prevent health issues later in life, it’s a matter of reducing risk and doing what we can to boost our body’s defenses. What we don’t often speak about are the short term benefits of a balanced diet which can be felt on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. On the day, you can expect higher levels of energy, better concentration and a better mood, especially if your intake of fresh produce starts in the morning. You can also expect to feel less hungry between meals due to the fiber found in fruits and vegetables, in addition to the naturally occurring water content. It’s a cliche but breakfast really is the most important meal you’ll eat in a day, the more nutrition you can squeeze into it, the better. In a week your body will be better regulating glucose in your blood, meaning more energy being utilised more efficiently. The natural sugars in fruit help to stave off cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and you’ll feel less inclined to snack. You should be feeling lighter with higher concentration levels and mood. You’ll also notice easier....movements. After a month, you might find yourself looking and feeling lighter. You might notice your eyes look whiter and healthier and your skin clearer. With some luck you’ll have put your extra energy to use and been active over the month, and so have the added benefit of exercising your muscles cardiovascular system. You’ll be sleeping better too! Chances are you’re probably already living this life if you’re reading this, but it’s easy to forget the things you do well when they’ve been part of your routine. Hopefully this is a reminder of why you’re feeling great right this moment!
It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I can’t quite get through everything in my box before the delivery of my next one, even when I’ve put some planning into the week’s meals. It’s really no exact science and I wouldn’t want it to be. After finding myself with a few spare ingredients come box day this week, and a need to get my empty out ready for collection, I found these two seasonal recipes which fit the bill perfectly. I ended up enjoying them way more than I thought I would on paper, so I thought I’d share in case it helps you avoid sending something to your compost caddy. Firstly, my leftover potatoes and spring greens made a great hash, adding eggs to the roasting dish towards the end and quickly mixing hot chilli with yoghurt to bring it all together. There were so many ways you can season it, I kept it simple with garlic, salt and pepper. All in one dish, all in an hour. Again, all in one dish but this time even easier and quicker, the ‘Green Machine’. Broccoli and cavolo nero (or any green really), roasted with ras el hanout and served with ricotta and almonds. I had mine with lemon but just go with whatever you fancy. Just in time for my next box!
Hotter, longer days, all types of fledgling birds, wild flowers and blossoming trees, there’s so much to look forward to in the month of July before even mentioning the beautiful organic produce it brings into season. A lot of food comes into its prime at this time of year, so it’s worth reminding ourselves what we might be eating in the coming weeks! It’s the best time for colourful, juicy veg: Cucumbers, Peppers, Tomatoes and Beetroot are all ready to be paired with the Green, Broad and Runner Beans, Peas, Mangetout and all types of fresh leaves. Kohlrabi is well in season as are Celery and Broccoli, Courgettes and Spring Onions and there’s still lots of root veg around for summer roasting dishes with Marrows, Artichokes, Turnips and New Potatoes. And to top it all off, the fruit: Blueberries, Raspberries, Cherries and Rhubarb! Many, many good flavours to come!
While being a ‘millennial’ means different things to different people, one thing that’s become clear is the way they’re driving the demand for organic foods. In fact, not only are they changing the way we eat, they’re redefining how we describe our diets. Asking someone what a ‘healthy’ meal means to them yields a variety of opinions. Plenty of people will describe it as low in fat or a variety of food groups, but people in the millennial age group are more likely to question whether it’s organic, locally sourced and sustainable. It’s just as much about how they’re grown and their environmental impact as it is their nutritional content. Millennials are also more likely to turn to the internet to get what they’re looking for, taking advantage of customisable orders (see our extras!) and businesses that align and are explicit with their ethical choices. If you ask me, the bottom line for us millennials is getting the truth about our food. If you’re not up front with us, we’ll look elsewhere. A little transparency doesn’t seem like much to ask, which is why for Bristol Veg Boxes we’re sure to be clear and unequivocal about our mission for sustainability, responsibility and local, organic vegetables.
The Kohlrabi. Understated or perhaps upstaged by other veg, it leaves a confused look on many faces. Described as an 'upside down hot air-balloon’, when it shows up in my veg box I can’t help but think about Bristol on a perfectly clear day, the sky dotted with balloons of all colours. It comes in two varieties; the Purple Globe (love these!) and the Apple-Green, with the globe being both stronger and sweeter than its counterpart and with a history we can trace back to the oldest known cookbook from Ancient Rome. This is a vegetable that’s been through waves of popularity through history and definitely deserves another come back. This vegetable was favoured by Charlemagne, Emperor of Rome back in 800 AD, who ordered it to be grown across the land under his control, spreading its crisp, subtle flavour across Europe. Even by name Kohlrabi shows it’s European roots, with it’s Germanic name literally meaning ‘Cabbage Turnip’. Simple, but perfectly descriptive. As of the 1600s Kohlrabi made its way to India, becoming a staple of Hindu diets alongside the rice and greens and the flavour finding its place in the cuisines of Africa, China and Israel. It’s international popularity means today we enjoy it in a variety of ways, be it raw, steamed, stir-fried or even barbequed. Today we see diet trends come and go in a matter of months, but when we look at the history of vegetables like the Kohlrabi we can see that, just like the ebb and flow of the seasons, the popularity of certain foods has always gone in cycles, albeit huge, sweeping cycles spanning the growth of civilization. Fascinating!
August is a particularly exciting time for veg lovers such as ourselves. More than any other month, heat-loving crops are not only in season but are bearing healthy, colourful and full-flavoured fruits and vegetables. In fact, even some of the veg normally imported to the UK are growing on farmland and in greenhouses here at home. You might even notice some of your favourites growing to the size you’d expect to see from imported veg this month. Peppers and Aubergines, even though available all year round, have been soaking up the heatwave and really come into their own this month. Lots of ‘C’ vegetables are harvested in August; Courgettes, Cauliflower, Chard and Cucumbers, as well as all types of Beans, Spring Onions and Fennel. I’m sure you will have noticed all the greens in your box are looking their greenest! As always, our mission is to bring fresh, seasonal produce to your door so that you can eat fruits and vegetables at their best, in a way that brings carbon footprints down, so you can concentrate on putting together interesting and balanced meals. Now is the time!
For all the fruit and vegetable varieties available to us throughout the year, the potato isn’t going to be the one you get most excited about. It’s hard to imagine life without them, at the same time it’s not something you’d write home about. But it hasn’t always been this way… This 350 million year old member of the Nightshade Family, lovingly cultivated for the last 10,000, has a story all of its own becoming the staple we know it as today. Not appearing in Britain until 1585, it turns out we were initially entirely confused by the potato at first, going as far as to accuse it of not only leaving soil infertile but causing a whole variety of diseases plaguing the country at that time. Europeans, not being used to only being able to eat the root of the plant (the top part does in fact protect itself with its toxicity), deemed it an unnecessary food. It wasn’t long before people were bowled over by their nutritional value (Potassium, Vitamin C), how well they kept and their many varieties and uses. It’s now the fourth largest food group in the world after Rice, Maize and Wheat and has been cooked every which way by people in every corner of the globe. And good job too!
Anything your body digests will give off a little heat while it’s being metabolised. This raises your body temperature and creates energy for you to use, alongside the heat produced by the enzymes in your gut, staving off the cold. This Thermogenesis can be increased by eating foods that take longer to metabolise, generally foods with higher levels of proteins, fibre and fat such as Sweet Potatoes, Bananas, Nuts and Cruciferous vegetables, but these aren’t the only ways of creating warmth through digestion. Black Pepper contains Piperine which chemically has a thermogenic effect on your body, as does the Coumarin found in Ceylon Cinnamon and the compounds found in Green Tea. Turmeric, along with its anti-inflammatory qualities, contains Curcumin which not only boosts your metabolism but helps in absorbing the Piperine in Black Pepper, meaning they can be paired for a combined warming effect. Dehydration causes a drop in your core temperature, so water itself is vital in regulating body temperature in extreme conditions, hot or cold. It’s this dehydration that means while alcohol may make you feel warm in the short term (Whiskey or Mulled anything would be the classics), it’s actually lowering your core temperature at the same time. In cold temperatures the Caffeine in Tea and Coffee can have a thermic quality, alongside the heat stored in the hot water. Finally, albeit quite obviously, the Capsaicin found in high quantities in Hot Peppers raises your temperature even when you’re consuming only small quantities, shocking your metabolism into action. If you’ve ever been given a home made cold remedy (who hasn’t?) it’s likely to have contained at least one ingredient that promotes Thermogenesis and thankfully the more of them you pack into a cup, the better!
When we’re talking about indulgence, vegetables aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. More often than not we reach for rich foods, high in sugar or fat when we’re looking for a treat, and root vegetables available to us at this time of year have their own place when it comes to desserts and cakes. Carrot cake will always be a traditional favourite, but Courgette can be used as a main ingredient in a variety of sweet recipes that can satisfy any sweet tooth. Courgette cake with Lemon works amazingly well as it does with Chocolate, both of which pair equally well when baked as a loaf. For extra indulgence Cream Cheese and Walnut make for a rich Courgette cake, with Pistachio making an excellent substitution if you want even more flavour and decoration. Equally, Beetroot cakes have come into their own with people experimenting with vegan cake making. They make for excellent vegan Brownies but if you wanted to pair them with Chocolate you’re onto an easy winner. They can also put the red into Red Velvet Cake and despite their earthy flavour their sweetness brings a subtle lift and the classic crimson colour to the cake. Finally, the sweetness and nutty flavour of Pumpkin, especially when paired with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger or Cloves makes not only an excellent pie but also Pumpkin Bread for something to enjoy any time of the day (or between every meal if you’re anything like me). For the truly indulgent, the beautiful colour of Pumpkin is easily transferred into an autumnal Cheesecake, so even your desserts can be seasonal!
Brussel Sprouts. Probably not anyone's favourite but an absolute staple for Christmas dinner. Packed with Fibre, Protein, Vitamin K and per serving more Vitamin C than an Orange (by quite a lot!). Being in the same family as Kohlrabi and Broccoli, there’s plenty of reasons not to skip them, especially given their antioxidant qualities. The Brussels we eat today, not surprisingly, were cultivated in Belgium from the Brassica Oleracea, which itself can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome. These long stalks with tight, cabbage-like buds are a particularly hardy plant that can be grown almost anywhere and harvested in the winter time (they don’t even mind a little frost). They will keep a lot longer when attached to the stem, so don’t be too quick to cut them off. Although we're mostly used to the smaller green variety, different varieties can yield golf ball sized buds, some purple, others with a yellow interior and with a range of flavours from sweet to earthy. There’s nothing wrong with boiling them aside from losing some of their nutrition in the process, but you can really celebrate a great sprout by lightly roasting or sauteing, which you could argue takes less time as you’ve inevitably got a roasting dish in the oven already. Sprouts spread out in the pan with less contact will give you a crispier texture, as will putting them into a dish of already hot oil with garlic and whatever fresh herbs you’re using. If you have differently sized buds there’s no harm in chopping them into pieces to be cooked consistently. ….even if you’re not a sprout lover be sure to give them their dues, failing that plenty of gravy!