I am no stranger to vegetable boxes, having been receiving organic veg boxes from a couple of suppliers for the past 5 years. These boxes do not differentiate the veg – I have broccoli so small they have given me two, and red peppers that I have struggled to fit in the veg basket, but nothing I would describe as ‘wonky’. But what is wonky veg anyway? All it is is veg that does not meet a supermarket’s aesthetic requirements in terms of size and shape – which can account for up to 40% of a crop of vegetables. A curvy cucumber or carrot might make it a bit awkward to peel and cut but it still tastes just as good, and it is still just as good for you. Personally, I like getting a bundle of carrots of different sizes – the small ones are ideal if I am just cooking for my children. Likewise, with potatoes – large ones are great if I’m wanting to peel them and feeling lazy, and small ones are good when I’m being equally lazy and just want to throw them in a pan. Needless to say, when I first found out about Wonky Veg Boxes in Leicestershire I signed up straight away
Wonky Vegetables were set up in February 2016 by Sam Barkshire and Matthew Hewett. (These guys remind me of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s and the guys who set up Innocent – I have read the autobiographies of both these businesses and the enthusiasm, passion and values they send of in these books are the same as the vibes I get from the Wonky website). They are Leicestershire-based and currently only deliver in the county. They sent out their first wonky veg boxes this week fill to the brim with veg that has not been sold by a farm because it did not meet the aesthetic requirements. Wonky’s priority is to supply a box of seasonal produce from local UK farms. They purchase the veg that supermarkets won’t at a fair price and aim to give at least 10% of their extra stock to local charities (for example, food banks). This surplus stock is a necessity to accommodate loss in transit that makes food unfit for consumption. Wonky’s end goal is normalise the purchase and consumption of so-called wonky veg, and aim for a system where fruit and veg are graded solely on whether they are fit for human consumption.
Its early days, but I like what I see so far. Their whole premise motivates me to buy their veg boxes but I would like a bit more information about the veg I receive – for example, its county of origin, why it was rejected (aesthetics, purchaser cancelled an order at the last minute, etc), and what charities Wonky have donated to, perhaps in form of a newsletter each month (I know, early days – maybe they already have this sort of thing in the pipeline). Although their prices are extremely reasonable (4kg for £5, 6kg for £6, and 8kg for £8) the delivery charge of £3.99 may put some people off as it is steep compared to competitors even though the total cost is still lower. My only criticism is their renewal system as your subscription is renewed, and payment for the next box taken, on the same day you receive the first box. In the long-term I do not foresee this being a problem so long as you are organised about skipping a week for holidays, etc. But as a new customer this does not give you a chance to decide if the box you have chosen is the right size and could then lead to surplus veg. I don’t foresee this being a problem for me this week, fortunately.
I ordered a medium sized box which was filled with:
- Podgy Potatoes
- Peculiar Parsnips
- Odd Onions
- Crazy Carrots
- Curvy Cucumber
- Abstract Aubergine
- Playful Peppers
The only things that are actually a bit wonky were the peppers. The aubergines are the most beautiful colour I’ve seen (and perfect for the lamb moussaka I am planning with the rest of my Easter lamb). The rest are humongous! The box will definitely feed us for the week, and given the size of the produce they will also keep fresher for longer. I just need to get planning that menu…
We are conducting a war on waste and the problem of wonky veg is one item on the agenda. Asda was the first supermarket to introduce a wonky veg range in January 2015 and their wonky veg box trial in February this year proved popular. Following its success Asda have expanded the number of stores offering the boxes. Tesco and Morrison have also introduced wonky veg lines which incentivise customers to buy so-called imperfect veg. Whether this suggests consumers are concerned about the amount of food being wasted or just like a bargain (or both), the popularity of these ranges shows that consumers are not as particular about what their veg looks like as retailers think. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have also all pledged to relax their cosmetic standards on fruit and veg.
I think it is great that a local, independent enterprise are tackling this problem in such a proactive way. I had a quick search for similar schemes across the country but search engines are just full of what Asda are doing and I could not find anything close to Sam and Matt’s Wonky Veg Boxes so they seem to have uncovered a gap in the market and grabbed hold of the veg box trend that is showing no signs of faltering any time soon. I wish these guys the best of luck.