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Bright, young leafy greens and gorgeous red strawberries combine for a delightful salad that screams “springtime.” But — happily — the story is more complicated. 

When I was a kid, fruits and vegetables were mostly local, and seasonal. Dishes incorporating them were limited to certain times of year and were therefore especially welcomed. In recent decades, refrigerated transportation and intercontinental marketing have made seasonal food almost quaint. 

The assortment of fresh young lettuce leaves and other greens marketed as “Spring Mix” seems suddenly everywhere in supermarkets and big-box stores. But suddenly also, some of the produce is locally grown. Plus “spring” mix is now sold year-round. In mid-winter as I write this, a spring mix called “Local Bounti” from Sam’s Club in Athens proclaims, “Georgia Grown” and “Greenhouse Fresh.” It’s from Hollandia Produce in Byron, just south of Macon. And it’s quite tasty. 

Spring Mix’s precursor was “Mesclun.” an assemblage of various young salad greens that originated in Provence, in the sunny south of France. Until recent years, those greens were field grown, and the various lettuces and other leafy plants varied by the time of year. 

Having locally grown spring mix throughout the year results from a positive recent agricultural innovation that, fortuitously, also benefits the environment. Most spring mix now is hydroponically grown in greenhouses that can be set up almost anywhere, like city rooftops and in run-down malls. By controlling light and temperature, increasingly using locally generated solar power, temperate spring growing conditions can be maintained year-round and worldwide. (While some readers may still associate hydroponics and indoor grow-lights with small-scale, clandestine production of a particular herbal plant, hydroponics is much wider.) 

Lettuce and similar leafy greens, tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, green beans, basil, parsley, and even strawberries can be produced fresh this way, anywhere. The list of produce is expanding. Even better, growing plants in water and controllable nutrients, their roots supported by inert natural materials like perlite or sand rather than soil, requires much less water than raising the same plants as field crops. Moreover, it also reduces diseases and the use of pesticides, though because of the soluble fertilizer nutrients it is not technically “organic.” Lettuce and other greens grown this way are tender and delicious — think “living Bibb lettuce.” That wonderful greenhouse tomato, “Campari,” in my opinion is second only to fresh, peak-of-season homegrown tomatoes. And those long, plastic-sleeved, seedless “English” cucumbers are a year-round winner. 

Cold northern areas, particularly Holland and Canada, over recent decades have led the innovations in greenhouse hydroponic agriculture, so as to have fresh, delightful – and salable — produce year-round. And very dry hot areas, like the Persian Gulf States and Israel, are innovating with greenhouse hydroponic growing for its economy of both irrigation water and arable land. Greenhouse hydroponic agriculture is almost certainly an important wave of the future. 

But back to salad. This was, after all, about salad, wasn’t it? Other than for “thinnings,” the young, overcrowded lettuce plants pulled from my father’s garden to make space for others to mature, I didn’t have a salad with anything resembling spring mix until recent years. And strawberries from my father’s garden were too preciously guarded for shortcake or topping ice cream to ever think of putting them on a salad. We didn’t eat fruit on salad back then anyway, aside from tomatoes or cucumbers or avocados, which botanically, if not culinarily, are “fruit.” 

In any case, here’s my springtime salad offering: Spring Greens and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette. Using some of the strawberries, particularly the less beautiful ones in the package, to infuse the salad dressing makes the salad an even more intense celebration of spring. And, thanks to modern agriculture, it can be enjoyed any time of year.

Tim Dondero, co-owner, and Executive Chef of Donderos’ Kitchen is a culinary enthusiast who has taught international cooking in Atlanta and Athens for years. His blog is at

Spring Greens and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

The recipe serves six. The salad dressing can be made in advance. 

  • 1 pint (16 ounces) strawberries, organic or greenhouse grown 
  • 1 sprig fresh mint or another herb, optional 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus to taste 
  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar or cider vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil or part olive oil 
  • 4 cups (loosely measured) spring mix salad greens (from supermarket) 

Divide the strawberries into two halves, the prettiest berries in one half. Save those for topping the salad. 

Using the less pretty berries, cut off the hulls and stems and chop or mash the berries finely. Mix them in a bowl with the fresh herbs, sugar, salt, vinegar, and water. Mix well and allow to sit for an hour or more. Put mixture through a strainer into another bowl and press down firmly to extract the juices. Discard the squeezed-out strawberry pulp. Add the black pepper and oil to the liquid in the bowl. Mix and taste for salt, adding a little, if needed. It should be faintly salty. 

Place the spring mix (no need to rinse the leaves if the package indicates they were already washed) in a salad bowl. Hull the reserved (prettier} strawberries. Slice them from top to bottom 1/4-inch thick and distribute them on top of the salad greens. Transfer the dressing to an attractive jar. Just before serving, and preferably at the table for the diners to see, toss the dressing with the greens and berries. 

Boom Magazine is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe found on our website.

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