It’s time to veg out

It's time to veg out
Sally Beare of Riverford Organic Farmers, Tunbridge Wells

Riverford started over 30 years ago, when its founder, Guy Singh-Watson, went back to his family farm in Devon and began to grow organic veg. After a few clashes with supermarket buyers, Guy was determined to find a way to supply his customers directly. He began delivering veg boxes out of the back of his car to his friends and neighbours.

Since then, Riverford has grown slowly but surely and now delivers to customers throughout England and Wales. They still grow much of the produce themselves, but as the business has grown, they have built long-term relationships with other organic farms too, in order to keep the veg boxes interesting and varied. Everything they sell is organic.

Last year Guy sold Riverford to its employees and now the local delivery businesses are franchises, which is where Sally, who runs Riverford Tunbridge Wells, comes in.

Sally had been a Riverford customer for a long time and knew that she loved both the Riverford produce and the company’s ethics and values. She had taken time out from her working life to raise a family, but was ready to take on a new challenge.

So in 2017, when she heard that the local Riverford business was for sale, she seized the opportunity. Sally says that as well as helping you to eat cleaner and greener Riverford boasts something for everyone.

“There are so many options to choose from. We have around 20 different veg and fruit boxes, so there’s one to suit everyone. Many people love to see what seasonal veg will arrive on their doorstep every week, but others prefer to choose what’s going into their box. Either way is fine.”

She goes on to say that unlike a lot of other schemes there’s no contract or commitment. “You can have a regular weekly or fortnightly order, or you can just order as and when. You can change your order up to two days before delivery and you can pause it if you are going to be away. You don’t have to be in when we deliver – just tell us where to leave the box. And the delivery is always free.”

Sally and her team currently deliver in Tunbridge Wells on a Thursday, but they are so busy that they are opening a second delivery day for the town to meet the demand. Customers can now choose a Monday or a Thursday to have their box brought to them.

Sally says there are a range of reasons why customers are choosing a Riverford veg box. Many of them are concerned about climate change and so are trying to eat more plant-based food and to choose organic where possible. Others want to improve their diet and that of their family.

“Getting a veg box is a great way to help you get to your five a day,” explains Sally. “Many of my customers are concerned about excess packaging too and so are looking to a veg box to reduce the amount of plastic coming into their kitchen.

“Whatever the reason and whether you are a household of one person or a large family, we will have a veg box to suit you.”

Autumn and Winter Cooking with a Veg Box by Guy Singh-Watson is one of several publications from Riverford packed full of recipes and ideas

Riverford recipes to inspire you into a life lived on the veg

Butternut, red onion & pumpkin seed salad

serves 4 as a side

  • 3 red onions sliced into1cm-thick discs
  • 6–7 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled & cut into chunks
  • a few thyme sprigs (optional)
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • pinch of hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar (or use more balsamic)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic, or to taste
  • 1 bag of mixed salad leaves (100–150g)
  • salt & black pepper

Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Keeping the onion discs whole, place them in a roasting tin and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the tin with foil and roast for 30–40 minutes on a low shelf in the oven, until the onions are soft and sweet.

Meanwhile, place the squash chunks in another roasting tin, toss with a further tablespoon or so of oil to coat and a good sprinkling of salt and roast for around 30 minutes, until tender and lightly caramelised, throwing in the sprigs of thyme halfway through the cooking time (if using). While the vegetables are roasting, put the pumpkin seeds in a small pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of paprika. Toast over a medium heat, stirring or tossing frequently until lightly browned, then transfer to a plate to stop them toasting further. Make a simple vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, around three tablespoons of olive oil, the mustard and garlic to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Put the salad leaves in a large salad bowl, pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Scatter over the butternut, onions and seeds.

Carrot & coriander soup

Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a starter

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1kg carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled & chopped
  • large bunch of fresh coriander (leaves and stems), roughly chopped
  • salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion and carrots and sweat them gently over a low heat for 20–30 minutes, being careful that they don’t catch. They should be no more than lightly browned. This is the most important stage as it is when the vegetables release most of their flavour. Add the potato, season with salt and pepper and cook for another three minutes, stirring frequently. Cover the ingredients with water and simmer until the potato is fully cooked, about 15–20 minutes. Finally, add the chopped coriander and whizz with a hand blender until the soup is really smooth.

Garnish ideas

  • a dollop of crème fraîche or cream
  • toasted almonds
  • toasted and lightly crushed cumin seeds
  • a couple of drops of orange flower water
  • walnut, hazelnut or sesame oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of ground mixed Moroccan spices, such as caraway and cumin, with a little hot chilli
  • chopped parsley or chervil

Lemony chicken and spinach curry

serves 4

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower, light olive or coconut oil, plus a little extra if necessary
  • 600g diced chicken (leg, thigh or breast)
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped, crushed or grated
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1–2 fresh chillies, finely chopped (add the seeds too if you like it hot)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • juice of 2–3 lemons, depending on size
  • 400ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 300g spinach, tough stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped if large
  • large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • salt and black pepper

Lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until you just start to smell their aroma, then grind them with a pestle and mortar. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the chicken pieces and fry over a high heat, turning once, until golden brown. (Don’t overcrowd the pan – cook in batches if you need to.) Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the onion to the pan with a splash more oil if needed. Fry gently for 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, chillies and all the ground spices and fry, stirring, for another two minutes. Return the chicken to the pan with the lemon juice and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the spinach and let it wilt for just a minute or two before seasoning and stirring in the chopped coriander.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter