A friend recently convinced me that I ought to try Abel and Cole’s organic fruit and veg box scheme, so I figured I’d give it a go. Why not? I’m all for supporting local farmers and for supporting organic principles. The reason I have avoided companies like this in the past is because, due to my cynacism, I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon and later feel duped. “Organic” tends to mean different things to different companies, many of which don’t really seem to be at all defined by that word. The EU has some basic standards which must be met, but aside from that it’s up to the company/farmer/producer. Basically everything falls into the hands of different certifying bodies, some with better standards and reputation than others.
In essence, I believed (and still do to a certain extent) that the concept of organic was a sham. This doesn’t mean I’m against organic. Quite the opposite, in fact! I just wish the standards were higher and regulations were strict, that it wasn’t up to private organisations to set different standards.
But c’est la vie. People don’t seem to care about what’s going into their bodies enough to really give a rat’s arse.
So. Abel and Cole.
The veg box
I ordered the small deluxe organic box, a box which features a variety of 8 or so different vegetables. At the time of writing this cost £12.50, a little pricey but not completely beyond affordable. You can see, in the picture above, the small deluxe organic box in the upper left corner. The other box is full of additional goodies which I ordered.
The other goodies included blood oranges (A++), bananas, free range eggs, and bean sprouts. I also tried the peanut butter, Sojasade blueberry soy yoghurt, and some soy sausages. The entire order was in the £25 ballpark, far more than I’d pay for the same stuff than at Tesco, but it just felt better. Cheesy, I know.
I wanted bananas and avocado
Two of my biggest complaints in this country are the quality of both bananas and avocados in store. They are unpredictable at best and less flavourful than cheap buffet food, errr, also at best. I have little positive to say about the matter. Abel and Cole at least was able to offer me an improvement on one of them items, that being the avocados. They’re not perfect (nothing is like a fresh avocado in Chile or New Zealand, where they grow), but after a few days’ ripening they are very yummy. The bananas, on the other hand… well, they’re just bananas. They’re not terrible, but after eating them fresh in SE Asia, no one’s going to feed me a banana that can even compare to superior banana-dom.
Everything else? Very good. The quality of the fruit and veg which I received were great and I have since received two more quality deliveries from the company. My only complaint is that they are out of peanut butter for a few weeks, something which actually made me decide to try Riverford’s vex box next week (not the primary reason, but I wanted to try Riverford anyhow).
The good and the bad
- Attention to detail (you can say what fruit and veg you dislike and they won’t include it).
- They stock peanut butter that rocks (too bad it’s now out of stock, because it’s hard to find non-crap PB in this country).
- They gave me a free bottle of olive oil for joining, and my friend £10 for referring me.
- They sell soya yoghurts which I can’t get in a shop close to where I live.
- Free delivery with order of £8 or more.
- Very clean and informative site, along with a fun newsletter with recipes and facts (delivered with your order and also viewable online).
- They offer some foods I’ve never found in Tesco (like salsify).
- They focus on seasonality.
- A little on the pricey side.
- You can’t choose delivery day nor time.
- They are out of peanut butter.
- Doesn’t seem like they are marketing to the masses, but to a small group that’s already converted. I’d love to see companies like this really push on a national scale with a national advertising scheme.
Will I order again? Yes, more than likely. I’m still going to try Riverford out next week to compare, so we’ll see. But Abel and Cole sells some stuff that Riverford doesn’t, so are already ahead of the game in that department.
Abel and Cole is pricey, but in a way that’s something I like. I don’t believe price necessarily dictates quality (hey, I run a business so I know there’s a wee bit of psychology behind this stuff), but I believe it does dictate how you treat what you buy. If you buy an expensive t-shirt, you’re going to make sure you don’t wear it when you’re deep frying. If you buy expensive food, you’re going to make sure you don’t let it go to waste and you’re going to make sure you bloody well enjoy it. This forces me to eat not what I’m craving at the time, but something that will take thought and effort. And I believe effort in the kitchen is important because your food should be a creation of which you’re proud and you respect.
That’s not to say I’m not still topping up with the odd off-season goodie at Tesco to make that special new recipe idea I’ve had floating around in the grey bits…