This summer is proving to be quite abundant at Campos Community Garden and we have the makings of a beautiful summer salad that pleases the eye and your taste buds. Delicious red and other heirloom lettuce, colorful lemon cucumbers, fresh herbs and edible flowers, and aromatic strawberries combine to kick off summer with flavor, color and style.
Summer Fruit and Flowers
When the Children’s Garden at Campos started as a straw bale garden in 2013, NYC Foodscape planted several small compact strawberry varieties ideal for small spaces, pots, rock gardens, and other locations where you want to combine edible and ornamental. One of them, an Italian alpine strawberry called Fragile Di Bosco, a plant that produces tiny, very deep red berries that just keep coming back and stick around much of the spring and summer. What the strawberries lack in size, they more than make up for in high production and intense flavor and perfumed aroma. They are perfect for salads, on ice cream and in dressings.
The garden is chockfull of nasturtium, planted near cucumbers and other summer plants to help repel pests. The whole plant is edible and full of nutritional value, including loads of vitamin C. Leaves add a peppery flavor to salads and the flowers are a delicious and colorful garnish. Other edible flowers in the garden include borage, a great bee attractor with pretty blue flowers, and marigold. In an upcoming post, we’ll tell you more about edible companion plants, including herbs and flowers, their health benefits and various culinary uses. In the meantime, below you’ll find a summer salad recipe you can enjoy now using some of nature’s medicine in the form of fresh herbs and flowers.
Summer Herb Salad with White Balsamic Strawberry Dressing
Here’s a recipe for a brilliantly colorful, healthy and fresh tasting side salad that you could easily transform into a light summer meal.
3 cups fresh mixed garden lettuce, washed and torn
1 large lemon cucumber, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel bulb
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red and yellow bell peppers, sliced into 1/4 inch by 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 garlic scapes, finely chopped
Handful nasturtium leaves, washed and torn
Handful mint leaves, washed and torn
1/2 cup fresh chèvre goat cheese, crumbled
4-8 nasturtium flowers
4-8 borage flowers
Salt and freshly ground pepper
(Optional: 1/2 cup duck confit)
For White Balsamic Strawberry Dressing
1/2 cup small very ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon balm
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped lemon thyme
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Combine first eight ingredients in a large salad bowl. Set aside.
2. Prepare salad dressing: In a small mixing bowl, place strawberries and macerate or mash until they become a thick pulpy liquid. Add white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, stir to combine. Stir in herbs. In a slow steady stream, add oil and stir quickly with fork to emulsify. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
3. Drizzle about two tablespoons of dressing over the salad mix. Toss lightly to combine. Add crumbed goat cheese, lightly salt and pepper. Add more dressing as desired and lightly toss again.
4. Serve onto two salad plates. Garnish with berries and flowers.
5. Optional serving suggestion: if you love duck confit as much as we do, you can make a rich but light summer meal by using more lettuce and adding duck confit along with the goat cheese. The sweet tang of the strawberry dressing pairs perfectly with the duck — serve with a glass of Viognier and you may forget where you are and think you are having lunch in the South of France.