A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson

 

The early days of July are the strawberry days of summer.  On the farm we had strawberries every year.  Next to potatoes, it was our most successful cash crop.  Of course, that meant that the stars and moon had to line up just right.  We had to get the plants set out in the spring, encourage them not to produce through their early growth, get them covered before a killing frost or snow storm, hope they had lots of snow and cover insulation all winter, uncover them after the last spring frost, have optimum growing weather in the spring and continue with good berry weather when the time came to pick them. 

Too much dry weather and sun would make the berries hard and tiny.  Too much wet weather would have them rotting on the vine.  One rotten berry would pass its rot on to the whole quart so rotten berries had to picked from the vine and placed in the row where we walked (or crawled).  I personally loved to throw the rotten berries, but my father did not want me to do that.  If I miscalculated my throw and the rotten berry happened to land in a row with other berries, then the rot would spread. A frost would stunt their growth and make them nubby on the end. Everything had to be just right to make a successful year.

Picking strawberries was hard work, but it was a farm necessity.  In spite of the dread of spending days in the field, when I looked at the strawberry fields before we picked them, they were beautiful. The bright red berries contrasted with green leaves and white berries made a beautiful nature-produced sight. At the beginning of the season, it was all hope.  The picking was what made the field a bit less beautiful and the job a bit less thrilling.  Still there was satisfaction in seeing the quart boxes filled and lying in the shade ready to be crated for market.

In my very young years, we had thirty-two quart crates and that is how we sold the berries to the mom and pop stores in Calais, Baring and Woodland.  As I grew older, we switched to twenty-four quart crates and finally we only had sixteen-quart crates. My father insisted that each berry had to be placed just so when the quarts were packed in the crate.  He was careful with the layer holders so the berries did not hang over the box and get squished when he layered them.  In fact, he was a bit too particular for some of us because he took a long time to crate our day’s work

For those days, we did well with our strawberry crop as long as the weather co-operated.  We would get a good price for our first berries, but when the Canadian berries came in, the priced dropped.  Last week as I reluctantly paid $6.99 for a quart of Maine strawberries, I thought if we had some of our crops today, we would have been millionaires.

To go with the season, I have found a recipe for a Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

Two tablespoons sesame seeds

One tablespoon poppy seeds

One-half cup white sugar

One-half cup olive oil

One-fourth cup distilled white vinegar

One-fourth teaspoon paprika

One-fourth teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

One tablespoon minced onions

Ten ounces fresh spinach, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces

One quart strawberries, cleaned, rinsed, 

hulled and sliced

One-fourth cup almonds, blanched and slivered

 

Method:

In a medium bowl, whisk together sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover and chill for one hour.

In large bowl, combine spinach, strawberries and almonds.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.   

Refrigerate ten to fifteen minutes before serving.

Enjoy this healthy (easy) 

summer salad.