Cook like a WWOOFer – The lost art of haybox cooking

Dec 16, 2022

We often say that by going WWOOFing you’ll learn about so much more than growing veggies – in fact, many WWOOFers report after a placement that they’ve learned a bit about cooking, as well! Here’s a fun example from Adrian, a WWOOFer in his mid-50s from Stroud.

Adrian went WWOOFing some decades ago and recently shared with us that his stand-out memory was learning about haybox cookers. “It’s such a brilliant technology!” he says. “I remember being amazed at how you could cook so efficiently, and so simply, with minimal energy input. In fact, I was so won over that I still regularly use this method decades later. It really is the strongest and most enduring learning from my time WWOOFing.”

Porridge prepared in a haybox

Haybox cooking is, essentially, the precursor to modern slow cookers and crockpots. After boiling ingredients for a stew, soup or porridge for 10-15 minutes, the pot is placed in a small box insulated with hay for 8-10 hours. The residual heat continues to cook the food at this time, preserved by the natural insulation provided by the hay.

At the end of the day, the stew is removed from the box and quickly warmed on the stove before serving. Rather than simmering for two or more hours on a stove, haybox cooking allows a meal to cook slowly while using a fraction of the required energy.

It won’t have escaped your notice that there’s a huge focus on the cost of energy at the moment, so we thought this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share efficient ways to minimise your power consumption while cooking this winter. You can find more information on haybox cooking (including how to build your own haybox cooker) in this article.

A woman demonstrates the construction of a haybox cooker (1914)

Thanks Adrian for your top tip! This would make a great regular feature; are there any other people out there who’d like to share their favourite or most enduring WWOOFing learning? Send us an email.

Light bulb moments

Light bulb moments

By Nic Renison Cannerheugh Farm sits on the edge of the Pennines, half an hour from Penrith. We look over to the Lake District and on clear sunny days there is no better place to be. It has been our home since 2012 when we moved into a caravan in the yard, with our...

In the soils of Saltash

In the soils of Saltash

By Suze Creedon The year is 2022: I’ve just finished my year working as an au pair in Paris, France and now are backpacking around, with no plan in mind. Just a handful of experiences I wanted to have. The destinations came as I went along. Most of my travel I didn’t...

Wicton Farm – home of the Wild Cow Dairy

Wicton Farm – home of the Wild Cow Dairy

by Claire Wicton We are an organic dairy farm with 175 acres in the heart of Herefordshire. We have a herd of 50 Holstein Friesian cows and are passionate about creating positive change in the world.   Our vision is simple: We have a shared dream to create an...