I was a little late off the mark to discover this fantastic initiative in the state, called Community Supported Agriculture. It’s something I’ll definitely sign up for next year, but in the meantime, I’m working through the myriad of organic food delivery services available in Melbourne.
Last week was Ceres. This group were one of the first places I remember opening in Melbourne when the organic movement of the millenium emerged. They’ve gone from a single storefront to quite an empire, and it appears that now, most of their sales are via deliveries. Link to Ceres’ weekly farm boxes here.
Ceres offer a decent spread of products, not just the weekly farm boxes. Meat doesn’t get a look-in, but I managed to order eggs, milk, gluten free bread and kombucha. There are also beauty and home cleaning products, and pantry items like nuts, oil and coffee.
Everything is available on an ad-hoc basis, so you don’t need to worry about ending up with 4kg of celeriac. Boxes seem fairly well priced, and there’s a good range on offer, contents divided into some fairly sensible categories. Example items are listed, making it easy to choose. I ordered an Asian Cooking Box ($42.50) and the Big Salad Box ($37.50) for my family of four. You pay online, it’s secure and easy.
24 hours if you order in the morning – super fast. Also, lovely delivery guy, who brought all the boxes in, played with the dog and asked if there was any packaging to recycle. Cool items come in a polystyrene box (reusable), other produce is loose-packed in a cardboard box with just brown paper for the small items (e.g. beans) and a plastic punnet for the strawberries.
There wasn’t anything in the boxes that I didn’t know how to use. There were a few herbs and other flavour punches like chillies, ginger and daikon, just the right amount. The veggies kept very well, even after a week, they’re still crisp. Pricing was reasonable, and even though I had to go and get some sweet potato and bananas from the local grocer, this veg pretty much saw me through the week for $80.
The carrots looked exactly like supermarket carrots. Now, I know you should not judge a book by its cover, but when I also discovered the strawberries had come all the way from Western Australia (when they are in season here in Victoria), I started to have my doubts. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the produce was exactly seasonal and local. I ended up with too many carrots (fair enough) and lettuce (probably not suitable for an Asian box) over the two boxes I ordered, and there wasn’t enough eggplant nor enough mushrooms (even though I got mushrooms in both boxes) to really make something decent with. Pak choi was pretty snail-munched (but saying that, was very fresh and tasty).
Will I order again?
Yes, but I might give the boxes a miss, because I’m worried they’re not really an exact translation of what is in season locally – I may be wrong here, it’s just a feeling. They’ve got some good bulk buys – juicing apples and the like, plus each individual item lists specifics like farm location, nutrients and uses.
My farm box aim:
- Organic, seasonal food, grown in my state, preferably within 100km.
- I consider the ideal mix of a farmbox is 40% green, 30% staple veg (e.g. onions, corn, potatoes), remainder fruit and colour. Quantities should include enough of each veg to feed at least two people in one sitting. Surprises are good, I love being pushed out of the comfort zone, to a point. I still can’t bring myself to love kohlrabi, bitter gourds and chokos – if they’re in the box, there better be an amazing recipe in there too.
- Other products I want include bread, eggs, cheese and milk and meat. These aren’t necessary, but a real bonus.
- I expect produce to be fresh and most of it should have at least a week before it starts to go bad (except things like meat, berries and leafy greens). Preferably a progression of use-by dates is considered, so the whole lot doesn’t go off by day three.
- I’m pretty easygoing with deliveries, but I expect them within about 48 hours, and I need some option if I’m not home, e.g. they’ll come around the back and put everything in my cooler box, or at least in the shade undercover. Reusable packaging makes sense, so it’s a plus if they pick up last week’s box.
On my radar at this stage: