The best fruit and vegetables in Sydney are not in your supermarket. They come delivered in boxes by people who really care about a tomato’s taste, or the crispness of celeriac, and especially where they were grown. Finding the right box can be difficult, though. Most collectives and companies providing fruit and vegetable boxes are using the same sell – fresh, seasonal and local – but some of them are pretenders that spruik the same produce you’d find on the shelves at Coles or Woolworths. We’ve gorged our way through Sydney’s best and worst. These are our favourites.
The Vege Box
When we first opened Shane and Amanda Roberts’ vegetable box we had a life-changing experience courtesy of some cherry tomatoes. They were so full of flavour it instantly made every cherry tomato before that point seem like wet cardboard. We could say the same about almost everything in the box – Roberts is in the business of sourcing whatever produce tastes best. Their clientele includes Cornersmith, Two Chaps and Mecca’s new Alexandria space. “We do around 150 boxes a fortnight. We don't want to grow too fast because it would lose that specialty edge. It's very interesting, small-scale stuff.” Some of his previous boxes have included stinging nettle, black radishes, romanesco and native plums. The box also comes with recipes written by Roberts’ wife Amanda.
$80 per box, including a dozen free-range eggs. Add $10 for bonus fruit.
Delivery once a fortnight in Northern Illawarra, inner west, inner city and eastern suburbs
Inquiries via email or text message
Oooby promotes local farming practices and a better food-consumption culture. Everything in its veggie box is sourced as locally as possible from certified organic or chemical-free small farms, and each box comes with an info-sheet on all the growers that have supplied the box, where they’re from and how they treat their produce. “We don't discriminate by looks and we don't discriminate by price,” says director of the Sydney branch, Murat Keskin. “Many farms have different efficiencies; if you've got one crop you're growing you'll be more efficient than someone growing lots of crops. We keep that in mind when someone is coming in with a price.” At this stage the company is just breaking even, it plans to reinvest future profits into small farms.
$24–$109 either all fruit, all vegetable or mixed. Box customisation for extra $3.
Delivery every Tuesday or Wednesday depending on location.
Order online at ooooby.org/sydney
Talia Smith used to be a chef. After nine years in catering and restaurant kitchens she wanted out. Now she runs the Local’s Market, a produce and flower market providing bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s probably the most beautiful selection of produce on the market. The box is substituted for a neatly-branded canvas bag. Smith fills them with a curious selection of heirloom vegetables and fruits with colourful twists and natural knobs and lumps. For now the bags can be picked up from Paramount Coffee Project, but Smith is looking for space in Bondi to host her own permanent grocer-cafe hybrid. “I want to have it like a community place to teach people how to use the produce they take home. So when strawberries are in season, macerate them with a big spoonful of clotted cream in a little bowl and it’s $4.”
$35–$65 plus $10 for local eggs and plus $8 for bread.
Pickup from Paramount Coffee Project on Saturdays from 8am–1pm.
Order online or on the day at thelocalsmarket.com.au
Alfalfa House is a member-owned and member-run food collective aiming to provide minimally packaged and processed organic food from ethical and environmentally focused farms. Shop coordinator Janne King says the vegetable box it provides is made up of only the collective’s best-priced seasonal produce. “To be able to put a lot of things in, you need the best prices, and the best prices are always for things there's a glut of,” she says. The box is incredibly good value at $20–$27, particularly considering all the produce is sourced directly from small organic farms. “They often come to us,” says King. Because of the small scale of Alfalfa House’s operation its boxes will often include esoteric vegetable varieties and common veggies with interesting shapes and sexy bulges.
$20.85 for volunteers, $25 for members and $27.75 for non-members.
Pick up on Wednesday or Sunday from Alfafa House.
Order at alfalfahouse.org/content/alfalfa-house-weekly-veggie-boxes
Of all the independent fruit-and-veg box companies, Box Fresh is the best value. Its large mixed box is absolutely gargantuan and although it doesn’t have the same range or speciality items as Grower’s Direct or the Local’s Market, it’s still of incredible quality. Owner and operator Greg Everett has been in the fruit-and-vegetable business for more than a decade. He’s a veteran of Sydney markets “That’s where our skill comes in – we’re there every day. It’s as fresh as you can get while using smaller farms.” Everett says he relies on his experience at the markets and his skills and knowledge from working as a chef to compile the weekly ingredients. If he ever includes something a bit more esoteric or peculiar he emails out a recipe to accompany each box.
$10–$74 either all fruit, all vegetable or mixed.
Delivery once a week across Sydney with delivery day depending on area.
Order online at boxfresh.com.au