Crossing Over with Tideford Organics


I’m often asked to review products on one of my blogs or give an opinion. I turn down most companies, mainly because I believe in clean, healthy food. It’s the kind of food we planted and harvested on the farm in West Virginia where I grew up, and the kind of food I prepare for my own family still. I could never be bothered to review products that don’t fit into that profile, and sadly, many do not. Enter Tideford Organics. A most unusual company. Unusual in all the best ways.

If you haven’t yet heard of Tideford Organics, they have been around since 1996 and were built on a commitment to organic food and the environment. They are now in a purpose built factory in Devon and designing food that tastes like you made it at home. If you haven’t already read it, here is my review of the products I was sent.

Back in October, one of my friends/readers saw that Tideford was looking for food bloggers to review their new line. Normally, I would pass the link on to another blogger, but I found Tideford intriguing. I’d seen their products while perusing the gluten-free tag on the Ocado website. I always look at the ingredients lists of products if they are available and was impressed by the fact that their soups and sauces seemed to be all prepared from fresh organic ingredients. So I agreed to review all the gluten-free vegetarian items that they’d like to send my way.

A few weeks after my review went live, you can imagine my surprise when I got another email from Tideford saying they were sending me a second batch of goodies that had been “tweaked in response to your comments on your blog.” What? I was stunned. Where was the normal “thank you for your review, we’ll take your comments into consideration” or the dreaded “like us on facebook you could win in a £250 voucher!”  I told you they were unusual! I was also amazed at how much they’d accomplished with just a few lines of suggestion. For that is what it was, only suggestion, I had no idea that after a 3rd batch tasting and discussions with the managing director that we’d be in negotiations for my consulting on next season’s line.

So there it is. I’ve now crossed over from independent reviewer to consultant. I thought you should know, and I’m hoping to be able to share as much of the experience as possible in the coming months. I’m headed down to Devon on Thursday next and cannot wait to meet up with the team. I’m so pleased at the prospect of working with a company that holds the same ideals about food that I do. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

UK Organic Box Delivery vs. Grocery Store Delivery

How many of you have tried an organic box delivery? What’s your perception? Here in the UK, they are marketed as a bit of a luxury and in the USA, people who use CSA vegetable share schemes are usually seen as hippies or tree-huggers. If you’ve never seen one before-they consist of a variety of vegetables, or fruit and vegetables, often from local farms utilising what is in season at the time. Each scheme is slightly different, but most will let you regulate or substitute items that you don’t like or will not eat. You can also add other things, bread, milk, eggs and more in the case of Abel and Cole and Riverford…much much more! I have always thought my weekly box delivery to be something of a luxury so  I have to say that I was quite surprised by the results of my research.  Here’s to debunking the myths! Please read on.

Last year we moved to Birmingham from London. We wanted a bit of a change of pace, and to get out from under London’s crippling rent and travel costs, not to mention the time we spent on public transport! One of the things I’d never thought about before the move was my organic box delivery that I’d been receiving for 2 years. I was with a company called Riverford…whom I LOVED. I’d had a couple of different driver/franchise owners whilst in London and both were brilliant. The North London one in particular. My veg was always perfectly put together and the medium box was an excellent value.

When I moved to Birmingham I was able to stay with Riverford, but the quantity and quality seemed vastly reduced. At this point I switched to Abel and Cole whom I’d had for several months when living on a Dutch barge in central London. The medium box didn’t seem to be as carefully prepared or have nearly the variety. But I’ve since switched to the large box I’ve been very happy indeed, with the exception of the driver coming at 6am and having to leave the box on my doorstep. That I don’t mind, it’s the neighbourhood cats that like to “claim” the veg as their own! Eww. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get comparing!


My Recent Abel and Cole Large Box Contents

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Milva New Potatoes
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Red Oak Leaf Lettuce this is ony my dislike list so they exchanged it for onions
  • Red Pepper
  • Savoy Cabbage this is on my dislike list so they exchanged it for Chicory
  • LargeTomatoes
  • Turnips

£18.50 + £1 delivery= £19.50


Sainsbury’s

  • turnips: 1
  • endive/chicory: 2.40
  • Carrots:  1.15
  • potatoes 1.75
  • portabello mushrooms 1.50
  • onions 1
  • red pepper .80
  • tenderstream broccoli 2
  • squash 1.80
  • leeks: 2
  • tomatoes  1.80
  • cucumber: 1.25

18.45 + 5.95 delivery= £24.35/ (£40 min required for delivery) 6 items not organic


Ocado

  • turnips: 1.15
  • chicory: 3.00
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 2.99
  • portabello mushroom: 2.19
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 2
  • onions:  1
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 2.35
  • tomatoes: 1.80
  • cucumber: 1.38

£23.53 / +  6.99 delivery /total: £30.52/ £40 min delivery  (2 items not organic)
This is the time to mention that Ocado do their own organic box which I’ve purchased a few times. You get a LOT of produce. But for me the flavour just isn’t there. It’s the reason why I rarely buy produce and fruit from Ocado. It looks nice, but there’s something lacking.


Waitrose

  • turnips: 1.99
  • chicory: 1.50
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 1.69
  • portabello mushroom: 1.59
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 1.5
  • onions:  1.07
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 4.99
  • tomatoes: 2.29
  • cucumber: 1.38

21.98 +(free delivery over £50) = £21.98/ (£50 min required for delivery) (4 items not organic)


Tescos and Asda do not carry enough organic produce in order to do a comparison but I feel quite sure that  they’d not be cheaper.

As for other box schemes that I’ve tried, there’s also Farm Fresh Organics. Whilst I loved the produce…I found the website rather difficult to use (in MAJOR need of a redesign) and almost no communication once I had ordered. I have a feeling if the website were sorted and there was more of an online presence and communication about them that they could get a lot more business here in the West Midlands. I’d love to see that happen and would be the first in line to order on a regular basis!
So there you go! Sainsbury’s came in under cost for the actual produce but went over with the delivery charge and a whopping 6 items were not organic. Again I was genuinely surprised by my findings! I always thought that my organic box was something that I splurged for each week because tasty organic fruits and veggies were something on which I wasn’t willing to compromise. Well, here’s to not compromising and getting the best for less! Please support local farms, and companies that make box deliveries like this possible!

I’d love to hear from all of you. Do you have an experience with organic box deliveries? What do you think of them? What made you consider an organic box delivery?

Many thanks to Sarah Braun for the lovely photo at the top of this posting. It is licensed though creative commons. Please click on the photo for more from her on her flickr page!

 

 

Tideford Organics Review

My first impression of the line of soups and sauces that we were sent from Tideford was the simple fresh ingredients. For those of you who are “eating clean” or limiting the amount of ingredients in each meal, these may fit your lifestyle. I was so pleased to find that their products are not only wheat and gluten free but also vegetarian and organic. This includes many products for vegans as well! Every day we see more and more gluten free products on the shelves, but they are often filled with less than healthy ingredients and are rarely organic. Kudos to Tideford for raising the bar. Below are our opinions on the soups and sauces we were sent to try.


Organic Italian Tomato Soup with Red Pepper & Lentils

First impression was that this soup tasted fresh and home made. Lovely balance of tomatoes, red pepper and lentils. Garlic isn’t overpowering and you can taste each individual flavour in turn. A bit light on seasoning for my taste, but great for those who are concerned about sodium intake and you can always add more if you wish!

what the other taster said: (@solobasssteve)
Tastes wonderfully home made yet light on seasoning which means you can embellish.


Organic Jalepeno Pepper Salsa with Lime Juice

I was not keen on this salsa. My readers know that I’m a bit of a salsa snob and this tasted like the base was tinned tomatoes rather than fresh. That might not be the case, but it was what came to mind after the first bite. Tomato seemed to be the dominating flavour and the other ingredients were hard to perceive. Salsa for me needs a bit of a pepper bite, which this did not have. There was a hint of garlic but could not pick out the coriander and lime.. I liked the consistency, it was like a true mexican salsa…but it just needs more flavour to be considered a salsa rather than a bland tomato sauce in my opinion.

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
This tasted like cold soup.


 Organic Spicy Butternut Soup with Sweet Potato

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one as I am normally not a fan of butternut soup that isn’t home made but said “WOW” after my first bite. The first flavour to hit my palette was cumin which was unexpected. This soup was flavoured very much like a subtle Indian daal. Absolutely lovely favours that all mesh well together and it was perfectly seasoned.  Also I felt great after eating it. Fantastic combination of butternut squash, sweet potato and red lentils. Well done. My favourite so far!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve “This not only tastes home made…but like you made it.” (I have him brainwashed!)


 Organic Beetroot Soup with Creme Fraiche & Dill

Ooh! Another lovely soup! Tastes light and delicious and comes the closest to the beetroot soup that I make at home.  I’d love to taste it with a tiny hint of acidity to balance the sweetness (apple cider vinegar would be perfect)  but this is being picky as it works fine without it. Again, not overly seasoned and lots of room for embellishment at home. Add some plain yogurt, soured cream or fresh dill on top!

what the other taster said: @solobasssteve
“Tasty. Feels like a well balanced canvas that has room for more paint. Understated but delicious.”


Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Nutmeg

I enjoyed the soup but I think that the name is misleading. If it had been called Organic Spinach and Split Pea Soup with Cumin, I would have known what to expect. Tasty though, and just the right amount of salt. But don’t expect the subtle flavours of a normal pea soup or the flavour of nutmeg. I added a bit of strong cheddar to mine halfway through and it was delicious.

2nd taster skipped this one as he wasn’t feeling well that day. 🙁


Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce

This was my favourite of the lot. I NEVER buy pre-made pasta sauce but this is already on my shopping list. I defy you to find a better tasting pasta sauce with more flavour and less ingredients.   Deep rich tomato flavour, perfectly seasoned with a nice edge of basil. I used it to accompany my gluten-free penne and it was a perfect companion. Can’t wait to try this as a pizza sauce on a delicious wheat-free and gluten-free base!

 what the other taster said: @solobasssteve As the husband of a chef, one of the best complements that I can give to a product is to say that it tastes home made. This does. This sauce is perfectly balanced, rich and creamy and I’d be happy to have this on a regular basis. This does not taste like it came from a jar. Well done!!

If you’re interested in trying Tideford Organic products for yourself, including their range of porridge, rice pudding and jellies, click here to find a local stockist. Or buy online from Ocado!

 

Touring with Food Allergies…Tips and Guides for Safe Eating

So I am again off on tour in the USA until July 4th. This trip has been a revelation so far…it’s amazing to see how many allergy friendly places have cropped up since last year and how much easier it is to find proper allergy friendly food at grocery stores. The labeling has also improved and you can pretty much count on the labeling listing allergens which is a vast improvement from past years. So over the next few months I shall be giving you the heads up on some of the places I’ve visited, tell you about some of the people I’ve talked to, and tell you how I tour with a severe wheat allergy. It’s not always easy, but things are getting better! I can’t wait to tell you about Mozzarelli’s in NYC. BEST PIZZA EVER and they are doing everything right. I got to have a nice conversation with manager Judith and she has officially restored my faith in allergy friendly Italian fare. Stay tuned friends!! xoLo.

Dining Out with Allergies, How my Favourite Restaurant Has Let me Down for the Last Time

I sometimes wish that people would get with the program. I also think that a restaurant that actively advertises wheat-free and or gluten-free food is more dangerous to us than one that makes no claim of knowledge or policy. When you offer gluten-free food on your menu…you MUST train staff to know how the seriousness of serving people with allergies and intolerances. The cards are stacked against us already and being able to visit a restaurant where we trust the menu and the staff is a huge relief to us when they get it right.

I love the food at Food for Friends in Brighton, that being said they have a terrible staff. They are nice and friendly but they have almost sent me to the hospital for the last time. I will not return. I had to send my food back 3 times on my last visit. Firstly because I asked for the gluten-free option for my baby’s meal and they brought it out with wheat pita. Next, my main was the gluten -free option of a mushroom dish originally in a filo basket. They brought the item out in the filo and when I asked it to be changed, they just dumped it out of basket and back onto the plate. (I knew this because they brought the plate back within a few minutes) When I asked if it was the same food, they said they didn’t know and would go and check. I am HIGHLY allergic to wheat…to the tune of carrying an epi-pen. Had I just trusted them and consumed my meal, I could have ended up in the hospital.

I don’t want to have to pay a premium for gluten-free food and still have to educate the staff in the process. I also don’t know what other mistakes they were making with my food in prep. Were they cutting my gluten-free bread with the same knife as the wheat? On the same chopping board? Can I enjoy my meal if I don’t trust the staff to know what they are doing?

I am willing to pay for great food properly prepared with care and will spend all my time telling everyone I know all about it. Badly done Food for Friends, I am not risking my life waiting around for you to get it right….and I suggest anyone else who goes there to know that they could be putting themselves or their child in danger and paying a premium for it as well.