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Things that grow together…

Sauvie Island Farm

…go together.

June 1 was opening day of strawberry picking at my favorite pick-your-own farm. This means sinking your teeth into a sun-warmed Mt. Hood—the much-acclaimed Oregon berry. The berry that reminds you (or lets you know for the first time) just what a strawberry tastes like. Or should, anyway.

That my freezer is still full of last summer’s strawberries is only an indication of not knowing how to ration. Daiquiris anyone?

Just before my back said “enough,” I made my way to the rows of plump spinach, giving me the perfect dish for a friend’s party later that day.

Seasonal Salad: Spinach and strawberries with red onion and feta cheese

Fresh spinach (washed and dried)

Fresh strawberries (washed and sliced, not too thinly)

Red onion (sliced very thinly)

Crumbled feta (or goat cheese)

For the dressing:
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the dressing ingredients together until emulsified. Toss with berries, onion, spinach and feta just before serving. Finish with freshly ground pepper.

Year of Produce: January

One benefit of neglecting your garden, especially in winter, is that you might find a surprise if you bother to visit it—such as this lovely rose-like head of chicory (radicchio). I left it alone rather than harvest leaves for salads so I could grow a whole head. Torrential downpours followed by an extended cold snap all but destroyed the plants.

Then, a warm dry(ish) day lured me into the garden, which I had been avoiding because I have yet to remove the last of the tomato plants! The chicory bounced back with splashes of fuschia painted on the leaves. I also discovered so many scallions, I had to force some onto a friend.

This variety—Castelfranco variegata—hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy.  There’s a ghostly white variety, too. Its flavor is enhanced by cold weather, like many hearty winter greens. You can buy seeds from Nichol’s, a local Oregon nursery but they’re currently sold out. Who knew it was so popular? Read more