My history with both strawberries and walnuts goes back a long, long way. Growing up as the oldest of a large family, we always had long rows of strawberries where we fought with varied feathered and furred creatures to be the first to get to as they ripened. Later I married into the Martin family and they had a pick-your-own patch in those early years. I remember picking with Asian pickers and being simply agog at their flying fingers while chatting at equal breakneck speed with each other. After the stork began using our home as a drop-off location, I sold strawberry plants in the spring from our house as a little sideline income as a stay-at-home mom. It turned out to be a great way to meet the neighbourhood, as well as neighbouring communities. I also got to know the berry types and which ones grew best in certain soils. Those were good years.
We children considered walnuts the bane of our existence. Our property had formerly been a black walnut grove and my parents had opted to keep about a dozen trees on our lawn. Starting in September, we had to pick up those big green globes before we could mow. At the end of the season we saved a few bushels of them and spread them out on the lower garage floor, then drove over them with the garden tractor to remove the thick pulpy, leathery skin. When the skin was squashed and cracked, we peeled them off, wearing rubber gloves. You know what walnut stain colour on wood looks like, right? Well, dear ones, that’s the colour our gloves were after that job was done and the stain dried. We let the nuts dry in their hard wooden shells for weeks down there, then gathered them in bushel baskets and stored them in the furnace room. Then…and this is the good part…on a cold, rainy night those old enough to help would gather in a circle and pound those wooden little nuts with a hammer until the shell split and pry out the nutmeat inside. We would beg dad to tell stories of his boyhood and he obliged with delight. When we were done, we trooped upstairs and Dad (or Mom, if the little ones had been put to bed already) would fry up those little hard-earned beauties in butter until they were sizzling and fragrant, shake some salt over them, and we devoured them with gusto. To this day, I cannot brown a nut without having memories of those late autumn delights flood my being. It’s funny how memories are attuned to smells like that.
This salad uses an assortment of fresh seasonal goodies that are available now. I had to use English walnuts because I have no black walnuts on hand, but it was still delicious. The dressing is from the yummy Festive Tossed Salad in our cookbook. I cut back the sugar and butter amounts from the original recipe, as I often do.
DRESSING: SALAD: DRESSING: Blend dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender lightly. SALAD: In a large salad bowl, layer half the lettuce, strawberries, onions and cheese. Repeat layers. The salad can be covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours. When ready to serve, top with the candied nuts and drizzle with enough dressing to suit your tastebuds. Eat and remember those who gathered the walnuts.
This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm and my blog is featured on their new website. The views and stories presented here are my own.
Strawberries come in many varieties and types. It is best to grow them in raised rows so that the berries don’t sit in water and rot during wet weather. The plants need to be covered in winter with straw to prevent winterkill (hence the name). With the advancement of the day neutral or ever-bearing berry, we are able to have strawberries much earlier in the spring and later in the fall than we used to. Ontarians are now making fresh strawberry pies in October for Thanksgiving, alongside the iconic pumpkin pie! They are easy to freeze for smoothies or shakes.
Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts
DirectionsNUTS: Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add nuts and cook until sizzling and fragrant over medium heat (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper; stir it in. Set aside until serving time. These can be done ahead.
DRESSING: Blend dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender lightly.
SALAD: In a large salad bowl, layer half the lettuce, strawberries, onions and cheese. Repeat layers. The salad can be covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours. When ready to serve, top with the candied nuts and drizzle with enough dressing to suit your tastebuds. Eat and remember those who gathered the walnuts.