Friday, September 14, 2012

Green Bean Delivery: a Review

Recently I was contacted by Green Bean Delivery, a local service offering delivery of fresh produce and prepared foods to your doorstep, asking if I would review their service.  Full disclosure: Green Bean provided a one-time free delivery of one of their bins of produce and prepared foods. 

Green Bean Delivery operates in Cincinnati and multiple surrounding cities with a mission of making healthy and sustainably grown local food affordable, accessible, and convenient.  The concept is simple: for each delivery, a customer goes online to make any changes to that week's default order, adding extra items as they choose.  The orders are packed into insulated bins and delivered the customer's doorstep, allowing busy people and those with limited access to fresh produce and high-quality prepared foods to access these items.  The company was a 2007 startup in Indianapolis and has spread to Cincinnati, Louisville, and Columbus. 

Green Bean set up a default single-time produce order for me and asked me to log in to customize it.  Then they selected several of their prepared-foods vendors' products and added them on.  

There was initially some confusion over when the bin would be delivered.  The interface asked me to choose a week, and on July 7th I chose the week of July 16th to give me time to go in and customize the produce bin ahead of time.  But on July 9th, I got an email saying my bin would be delivered July 11th.  I emailed back to point out that on the form I’d indicated I wanted the bin the following week, and that I hadn’t had time to customize my bin yet.  They fixed it and all was well. I suspect the confusion was caused by the fact I was not a new regular customer (who I'm sure generally want their bins to start right away) but was receiving a single special order, so it may not hold true for new customers in general, but I found the process a little confusing.  

The default order for July contained limited local (which their website defines as from Indiana, Kentucky, or Ohio) produce -- cabbage, bell peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers.  As locally-produced food is my primary interest and I placed my order when local produce season was in full swing, I would have loved to see a default order that focused on local, seasonal items rather than on produce that was being sourced from further away.  

By customizing the bin, I switched out the non-local items the default bin contained to instead choose local sweet corn, new potatoes, bibb lettuce, and kale, but it would have been nice if these were in the default bin.  I would also have liked to see more locally sourced produce among their offerings -- the farmers' markets had a lot more than just cabbage, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn, potatoes, bibb lettuce, and kale in mid-July.

Having their online interface default to locally-grown items would also help educate people on what's in season locally.  They note in their online descriptions which items are local, but to me it felt as if there was an education component lacking.  If the default setting were the locally-produced items, it would encourage people to at least think about using those items while still allowing the haters out there to choose bell peppers instead of kale.  I suspect a lot of people think of Green Bean Delivery as similar to a CSA -- I know I did -- and it's really not focused as much on sourcing local produce as I'd assumed.  

The prepared-foods items they selected for me were intriguing.  Some vendors -- Fab Ferments, for example -- I'm familiar with, but I'd never tried their Cosmic Curry Sauerkraut.  (Delicious, as is most everything I've tried from this terrific artisan fermented foods maker.)  Others were new to me but also very good -- the Frog Ranch Hot and Spicy Pickles were fantastic, crisp and garlicky, and the Five Star Foodies Artichoke Burgers was something I'd seen around but never tried because while I like artichokes and I like veggie burgers, "artichoke burgers" just never sounded appealing.  But they turned out to be much better than I expected -- I'd definitely try them again.  Green Bean also included Sweet William's Bakery breads, Dean Farm chicken breasts, Seven Hills coffee, Carfagna's vodka pasta sauce (the only thing I haven't gotten around to trying yet, as it's been too hot for pasta), Grateful Grahams Cinnamon Raisin Graham Cracker Bites (get thee behind me, Satan!  These are like crack!), Carriage House Farm honey, Hartzler Family Dairy milk and butter, and Blue Jacket Dairy chevre. All were uniformly excellent products and delivered in excellent condition with perishables well-chilled. Likewise the produce I received was well-packed and fresh and arrived in excellent condition.

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