I got this random email a few weeks ago with a special offer from an Australian company called Harvest Box. Harvest Box is a Melbourne-based company who send you nifty little packets of dried fruit and nuts and other healthy goodies once a week, if you ask them nicely (well, and subscribe, of course).
Now, I’m fairly fond of dried fruits, but I’m not too keen on nuts, so this might not have excited me if it weren’t for three things:
1. Chocoholic walks aside, we are supposed to be being a little bit healthy with this whole pedometer thing.
2. It’s a lucky dip! Every week! There are about 60 collections of fruity, nutty goodness on the menu, which means quite a lot of variety and scope, and you get to say which things you really don’t want, so it will only be *good* surprises! (I really love surprises, if they are not unpleasant ones, and my life is sadly predictable most of the time) You also get to rate things after you have tried them, so that if it turns out that you really love (or hate) something after all, you can update this on the site and it will be reflected in future deliveries.
3. It’s $7.95 per week, including postage. Believe me, it is *easily* worth $7.95 to me to get an exciting package at work each week.
My first box arrived on Monday, but I have been virtuously holding off on reporting back until I have tried everything. So far, I am impressed…
At first glance, it looks pretty plain. The boxes are sized to travel by ordinary post (not parcel post), and I was a bit worried that the portions would be tiny…
They aren’t! I’d say that each portion is roughly 1/3 of a cup in volume, and weighs a bit under 50g (the box says 33g, but it feels heavier than that). So about 1-2 day’s worth of desk nibbles.
My first thought when I opened the box was ‘oh dear, that’s a lot of nuts. Did I really say I wanted nuts? And banana?’. So I went back to the website to check what I had actually asked for. It turns out that they had given me two of the ‘Try Me!’ options and two of the ‘Like it!’ options. (The four ratings are No Thanks, Try Me, Like It and Yes Please – I’ve only marked a handful as Yes Please, and I was fairly adventurous with the Try Me options, on the grounds that they are small portions and fairly cheap, so I should live dangerously.)
Apparently, it turns out that despite not liking nuts *or* spicy things, I had declared myself willing to try OMG Wasabi’ roasted cashews. It’s possible that I had my husband in mind with this one, but that’s OK. I’ve never actually tried wasabi, and it is doubtless time I did.
To my great surprise, I really rather like this one. I was appalled by it at first bite – Wasabi is much more burny than chilli – but it turns out that Wasabi is also an honest sort of assailant. It faces you squarely and hits you in the face, but then runs away, unlike chilli’s evil habit of sneaking up on you slowly, surrounding you, and mugging you when it’s too late for you to do anything about it. I find I can cope with this rather better than the lasting burn, and the creaminess of the cashew really mitigates it nicely. I’m not sure I like the *flavour* under the burn as much as I like that of chilli, but the nuts are nicely salty and creamy, and the whole flash-fire, pin-prick heat of the wasabi is growing on me.
The second selection in the box had the promising name ‘Apple Pie’, and was an all-fruit mix, consisting of dried apple, raisins and sultanas. I’d actually had pretty high hopes of this one as a safe choice… and that’s basically what it was. Safe. The raisins and sultanas were good, solid examples of their kind, neither amazingly good nor terribly bad, and neither magnificently fresh or dry. Pretty much the same quality you get in those little boxes of sultanas for school lunches. The dried apple was in slices, not wedges, and still had its skin, which I rather liked, but it was a little on the tough side. That said, I would have liked more of it in relation to the sultanas and raisins. Nothing wrong with any of it, but a little dull, especially after the excitement of the wasabi.
The third selection, ‘Samba’, was another one that had me wondering what I was thinking when I ordered it. Samba is a mix of dried mango, coconut flakes, cashews and banana chips, and I don’t especially like any of these things (I was trying to be open-minded, but still…). Well, maybe mango.
Alas, the mango is the one part of this I can’t review, because some naughty scientist came into my office overnight, opened up the (sealed!) packet, and ate all the mango pieces and all but one piece of the banana. I’m quite annoyed by this – not least because I do keep a chocolate drawer in my office for emergency snacking for any hungry scientist who needs it, not to mention the fact that I quite frequently bring in cake or biscuits to share. So it’s not like they are starved and forced to rely on my snacks to survive!
On the bright side, the banana chip I tasted was actually really good – lovely and bananaish and fresh-tasting, not cloying as dried banana often is. The coconut shards are creamy and coconuty, and the cashews not bad at all, though they would have been better if someone hadn’t pinched all the dried fruit, drat them.
The selection I saved for last was called ‘Rocky Road’. This was one of the ones I had pre-emptively marked as ‘Like It’, on the grounds that while I can take or leave cashews, anything with dried cherries and milk chocolate in it couldn’t be all bad. But I’m opening it early, because I am still peeved about missing out on Samba. So there.
First up, those dried cherries are wonderful – plump and juicy and sharp, and strangely satisfying – one doesn’t need many of them. The chocolate buds are pretty average – not the best quality chocolate, I think – and have a hazelnutty undertone to them. They do go well with the cherries, though. The pecans are, I think, good if you like pecans, which I don’t, really. But they have a lovely scrunchy sort of texture (not quite crunchy, a bit buttery, can’t really describe, actually) and again, complement the cherries very well. It’s all about the cherries, really. Yum.
The verdict overall? I’m pretty impressed, actually. The quality of the dried fruit ranges from good to excellent (with the more exotic / unusual fruits being the best, interestingly enough), and all of it has a very true, fruity flavour. The nuts are, I think, particularly good and very fresh, which means I’m liking them a lot more than I would have expected. The one thing I wasn’t too keen on, surprisingly, was the chocolate – I think that’s an area in which they could do better, as the quality was pretty basic. The combinations themselves are well-chosen, in that the flavours and textures complement each other and are rather moreish. The portion sizes are also good, I think – they look small on first glance, but I’ve found that they last me through the day quite nicely, nibble by nibble.
What I found most interesting was that I actually enjoyed the combinations I was doubtful about more than the ones I would normally have picked myself. There hasn’t been a single thing I have disliked so far, and I was *really* doubtful both about the bananas and the wasabi cashews. And the pecans. And the coconut, really. I think this is one of the big advantages of their surprise-package system, actually. There are a lot of things on the menu that I put my hand up for in a spirit of adventure that I would probably have never got around to if they had been in a shop – the sort of things that look interesting on the shelf, but which you put back in favour of safer choices. The fact that you get just one smallish portion of each thing adds to this effect – I don’t think I would have risked buying a whole 100g or 200g packet of the Samba or the Wasabi Cashews, or even the Rocky Road, with all those pecans, but I was willing to give them a try if it was just a handful, and I’m glad I did.
In terms of value, at $7.95 per box (including delivery) they are a bit more expensive than buying your own nuts and fruits and making your own mixes, but the value comes from the variety of mixes that you can get, especially if, like me, you get bored with a single mix relatively fast or are curious about trying new things without committing to a huge packet of them. And the lucky-dip factor is definitely worth several dollars, at least for me! But if you are someone who is very specific in what you do and don’t like eating, this may be less interesting.
And now for the giveaway! If you live in Australia and are interested in trying out Harvest Box, follow the link and use coupon number 56701P07FA1 to get the first box for free.
(sorry, overseas people – this is a local company, and I don’t think the dried fruit and nuts would be quite as good after a round-the-world trip. There’s nothing worse than jetlagged fruit, let me tell you…)
And then come over here and tell me what you think! I have to say, it has certainly improved my week. Except for the matter of the missing mango…
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