What is it about veg boxes that they are positively prospering in the recession while supermarket sales of organic greengroceries have plunged? Is it loyalty to an ethical supplier, a determination to maintain green credentials as the planet heats relentlessly, or merely the surprise of not knowing whether a stick of black salsify or a handsome pale blue squash will turn up among the carrots, swedes and spuds to help brighten a winter supper?
One man who has a good idea why the humble box is here to stay is Guy Watson, whose Riverford organic farm built its name on box schemes, becoming one of the main players in the business.
Foodies have become the core customer base, he says, replacing the worthies with less fussy palates who kick-started the surge towards organic 25 years ago.
And the box men have considerably smartened up their act in response.
“It was all started in the 1980s by a bunch of belligerent, value-driven farmers, whose attitude was: ‘This is what we produce – like it or lump it’,” explains Watson, who has grown organic for 25 years, but only joined the home delivery set in 1993.
“They were selling to customers who didn’t care that those first boxes contained a load of muddy swedes, woody parsnips and pigeon-pecked cabbages, so long as they were organic.”