July 23, 2010 · 9 comments

Abel & Cole Organic Box Delivery [Review]

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I recently set up a weekly order with Abel & Cole (I wasn’t very happy with my old delivery scheme and had previously tested some of Abel & Cole’s produce with fabulous results). I plumed for the Deluxe Organic Fruit Box and Seasonal Salad Box. Abel & Cole also, very kindly, sent me a Mixed Organic Fruit & Veg Box to be delivered free of charge for me to review.

Organic delivery boxes are becoming more and more popular, contrary to the view expressed on a recent Mary Queen of Shops episode. Basically one of the three sisters running the grocers said she didn’t think veg box schemes would get the slightest interest – she was wrong, the local people snapped them up! For those who didn’t watch the program, why not watch the short clip below.


There is something rather special about getting a vegetable box, something beyond knowing you’re buying organic – I mean let’s face it, you can buy organic stuff from any shop nowadays – the feeling is that of community, you can source local, fresh from the farm ingredients from a company you can trust. Now, before you all begin to shout, I know that is just me feeling all light of heart, woolly and contented. Abel & Cole are of course, as much a capitalist company as the next one – and therein lies tension. Capitalism – greed, grubby, yet vital in this day and age – destroys the pastoral. You can’t sell your cake and eat it, and the green wellied virtues of environmentalism sit uneasily with cold-blooded corporate self-interest.

But, and it’s a big but, who would you rather your money went to? A notoriously unethical supermarket chain or an ‘eco-co’ with values? I know who I would choose. And, anyhow what more ethical option is out there? Other than growing everything yourself?

Box schemes of course are not suited to everyone. I dare say if I were a city dweller with shops galore on my doorstep I mightn’t be so keen to use them. But, I don’t, I live out in the sticks with no shopping options but a post office and small convenience store. So unless I make a journey into the nearest town – only to be faced with the supermarkets – my options are limited to say the least.

I also happen to love the surprise element of the delivery box. It makes you think on your feet, encourages you to try out new ingredients and new recipes – gone is the option to eat in a repetitive or boring manner. Should you wish to have more order to your weekly cooking, you can go online to see what will be in your delivery that week, or you could create a box yourself from scratch.

So back to the boxes.

Deluxe Organic Fruit Box

Mixed Organic Fruit & Veg Box

Seasonal Salad Box

I was exceptionally pleased with the quality of all the produce.

All the boxes were packed full of exciting things. If you are very busy and if you add up the cost of motoring to the supermarket and the time involved I reckon that a weekly delivery is of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables is excellent value. The added bonus of course is that Abel & Cole do not only supply fruit and vegetables – they sell meats, fish, dairy produce (including fabulous clotted cream), artisan cheeses, breads and a few ‘ready meals’ to name but a few.

Abel and Cole offer a lot of flexibility. You can elect never to receive the fruit and veg that you dislike. A service my previous delivery company did not include.

One downside is that there is no indication on the produce or the receipt where the items have come from. In any supermarket it either states the country or in the case of much UK produce the county and even (in most cases) the farmer it’s from. The farm shop can and does do the same. Come on Abel & Cole this needs improving.

With some of the sumptuous salad ingredients I made a prawn & avocado salad, dotted liberally with the sweet, juicy heirloom tomatoes.

Dessert was no more complex than some of the sweet, juicy fruit, sploshed with a little orange blossom water – a trick picked up from a Nigella Lawson book many moons ago.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

goodshoeday July 23, 2010 at 17:13

I think its real horses for courses with shopping. I tried the Abel & Cole box scheme last year and was pretty ambivalent about it (http://withknifeandfork.com/boxed-in) I couldn’t see what it offered me beyond Ocado/Waitrose. It wasn’t any cheaper, and it wasn’t any more local. And that was before I found the two nearby farmers markets. I can see though that if your shopping opportunities are limited then it could be a good way to get organic and seasonal items.
goodshoeday´s last blog post ..Mostly berries- some cherries and currants

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George@CulinaryTravels July 23, 2010 at 17:23

I agree. If I had a farmers market that I could easily get to, I’d use it. I do have a thing about avoiding supermarkets as much as possible though … and so the organic scheme and usage of my local butcher pretty much allow that.

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goodshoeday July 23, 2010 at 18:26

I try to avoid supermarket but I didn’t think the quality was any better and I like to see what I am buying on fresh stuff so in the end the supermarket wins but then where I am there are about 5 supermarkets with 2 miles and one is a Waitrose whose ethics are pretty good as corporates go, partly because of the partnership bit of it. Also in the supermarket I can often see where stuff comes from so I can pick more local stuff even though no doubt it went on some convoluted journey to get there.
Its an interesting topic and one with no right answer.
goodshoeday´s last blog post ..Mostly berries- some cherries and currants

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Whimsical Wife July 26, 2010 at 20:01

I’ve used box schemes in the past but… I’ve always found them a little inconvenient. Either the quality has not been fabulous and so the food has only lasted a few days or the food has been fabulous but despite ordering family or large boxes (billed as feeding family of 5-6) they just don’t, there just is not enough in them!
I like you love the surprise of not knowing whats coming and the challenge of making it into something. But I hate the delivery slot of 7am – 10pm it just doesn’t work for me.
However the times I used Northern Harvest the quality has been superb but the delivery slot just to long.

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kay mills January 29, 2012 at 11:41

large box ordered and extras, not much in box toms rotted by next day, advocado black and rotten by 2 days no response from my email to company. what a start to home delivery

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Samantha Clark April 17, 2012 at 21:09

Like other reviewers I have had problems with quality and quantity when purchasing the Abel and Cole boxes. Unfortunately every single box had items that were so old they made the box and remaining items wet, we found that most other items were off within 2 days (even when stored in the fridge) and felt that even if the items were fresh (as they should be) the amounts delivered were so small that they wouldn’t last half the week let alone a full 7 days. Value for money was poor as a result and as we are able to get out and about for our shop I will continue to do that. I have been disappointed by pretty much all aspects of Abel and Cole when they promised so much.

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Jay Coles July 3, 2013 at 10:41

I used Riverford for a while (similar box scheme – http://www.riverford.co.uk) but stopped because I just couldn’t get through all of the vegetables they sent. Veg boxes are a great idea but seems to be a lot of waste. Recently started with Gousto (www.gousto.co.uk) who do recipe boxes. I’m still getting used to it, but so far there’s been no food waste = no wasted money!

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George@CulinaryTravels February 21, 2014 at 14:03

I love my veg box delivery, but they key is to plan well – do you really need a delivery every week, is it the right size box? etc etc. Also I tend to keep very well stocked with storecupboard items so that I can rustle a meal up out of the veg/make meals for the freezer etc and keep wastage to a minimum.

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