Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

I Screwed up my Strawberry Patch, but the Silver Lining Is This Spinach Strawberry Salad

by 
Julie Laing
June 13, 2022

When it comes to gardening, I don’t mess around.

Every year, I team up with a friend to grow a huge garden, harvesting fresh produce to enjoy all summer and preserving the rest to eat and share with family and friends throughout the year. It includes numerous beds, a hoop house, a small orchard, and perennial patches of raspberries and strawberries – the works.

Our trio of 3-by-6-foot strawberry beds features a June-bearing variety whose berries tend to ripen all at once, making them ideal for jam and freezing. These beds become so densely packed with plants that I’ve been known to thin the runners in early spring and take them in a box to the local brewery, where I sit outside sipping an IPA and offering bundles of plants to anyone who passes. When the berries in our beds ripen, we spend about three weeks picking almost daily just to keep up – and then, they’re gone.

When a sailing buddy offered additional strawberry plants, I was on the cusp of saying no until she said the plants were everbearing. Then my ears perked up. Everbearing or day-neutral strawberry plants can produce sweet, red berries from the first warm days of spring until the first hard frost, making them perfect for harvesting by the handful and slicing onto cereal or salad. So I said yes.

But I may have made a mistake.

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In late March, I arrived at my friend’s house to dig what turned out to be hundreds of strawberry plants. Her patch was large and overgrown, with a mix of the June-bearing variety I already had plus the everbearing ones I wanted and no way to identify which were which. She needed it emptied completely. So I dug in my broad fork, plucked out every crown, and filled the back of my Subaru with boxes of bareroot plants, wondering just where I was going to put them all as I drove across town to the garden.

In the end, I tucked the plants in three long asparagus beds. The asparagus started poking their tips through the soil a few weeks later and now grow inches every day to push above the bright green strawberry leaves. Mounds of chives anchor one end of the rows; a few spinach plants have self-seeded into these beds too. When the fruit sets, I may be picking strawberries from dawn to dusk and eating them and their growing companions in daily salads. I’m tempted to put a sign in the middle that reads, “Salad Bed: Strawberry, Asparagus, Spinach.”

Fortunately, there’s no need for you to repeat what may prove to be my folly. A box of berries, a bundle of asparagus, and a couple of packs of spinach let you throw this salad together quickly. Bright red berries with fresh green hulls will have the sweetest flavor; truly ripe ones will smell like strawberries when you give the package a sniff. Pureeing a few into the vinaigrette creates a bonus flavor boost, and the honey helps to emulsify the oil and vinegar into a silky dressing.

Strawberry, Asparagus, and Spinach Salad

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Serves 6

Ingredients

For the dressing

1/2 cup coarsely chopped strawberries

3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar

1-3 tsp honey to taste

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad

1 lb asparagus

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 5 oz packages of Fifth Season baby spinach

4 oz crumbled feta

2/3 cup sliced strawberries

1/3 cup minced chives or thinly sliced scallions

 | 
 | 
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the dressing

1/2 cup coarsely chopped strawberries

3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar

1-3 tsp honey to taste

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad

1 lb asparagus

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 5 oz packages of Fifth Season baby spinach

4 oz crumbled feta

2/3 cup sliced strawberries

1/3 cup minced chives or thinly sliced scallions

Ingredients

For the dressing

1/2 cup coarsely chopped strawberries

3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar

1-3 tsp honey to taste

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad

1 lb asparagus

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 5 oz packages of Fifth Season baby spinach

4 oz crumbled feta

2/3 cup sliced strawberries

1/3 cup minced chives or thinly sliced scallions

Directions

1. Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350°F. Spread the pine nuts on a baking tray and toast for about 5 minutes, until golden. Pour onto a plate and let cool completely. 

2. Place the strawberries, orange juice, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of honey in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste and blend in another 1-2 teaspoons of honey as desired. Add the olive oil to the processor or whisk it in by hand until emulsified and silky, and then season with salt and pepper.

2. Snap or cut the tough bottom ends from the asparagus. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add the asparagus spears, and blanch for 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness, until they are just tender. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice-cold water. When the asparagus spears begin to soften, pour through a colander to strain off the boiling water and immediately plunge the asparagus into the ice bath until cool. Strain off the ice water and let the asparagus drain completely before cutting into 1- to 2-inch pieces.

4. Place the asparagus in a large salad bowl and toss gently with the toasted pine nuts, spinach, and crumbled feta. To serve, divide among six salad plates. Top with the sliced strawberries and chives or scallions. Whisk the vinaigrette again, drizzle it over each salad, and serve immediately.

About the Author

Julie Laing

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