This strawberry cucumber salad is sweet and refreshing with a satisfying crunch in every bite. It’s a crazy easy, super seasonal side dish that’s perfect in its simplicity. Jump to recipe »
This past weekend we went strawberry picking trip at our favorite local farm, Butler’s Orchard. Local strawberries are early this year due to our fairly mild winter and I’m eleventy billion percent okay with that. This was Asher’s first trip to the farm and he spent his time rolling around in the hay, throwing his hands up in the air, and watching his big brother with keen interest. Cassian was on a hunt for “monster” strawberries and he did a pretty good job of collecting more berries than he ate.
Ten pounds of strawberries later, we hauled our bounty home and I went through the annual process of deciding what to make before they all went to crap. About a third went into the freezer for smoothies and a batch of jam come fall (if they last that long, which is iffy). Another third went straight into our greedy pieholes.
As for the rest? Well, basically I’ve been tossing strawberries into everything we eat. First up is this strawberry cucumber salad with basil and mint. I mean, duh. There’s a whole lot of natural companionship happening in this combo and the result is a crunchy, sweet salad bursting with freshness.
Strawberry Cucumber Salad Recipe Notes
Not a fan of red onions? Skip ’em or substitute shallots for a milder flavor.
I kept the dressing simple with olive oil, balsamic reduction, flaky maldon sea salt, and cracked black pepper because flavors this fresh don’t need need much enhancement. You could use balsamic vinaigrette if you don’t have any balsamic reduction.
I love how customizable this salad is. It’s already friendly to all of the diets – paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, grain free. Here are some suggestions to make it your own:
Make it Carnivorous: Add grilled chicken or flaked salmon (this is a great option for a packed lunch!)
Make it Dairy-lovin’: Add fresh mozzarella or feta
Make Spring Panzanella: This translates beautifully into a spring panzanella. Dice or tear a small loaf (about 4 cups) of day old bread into 1″ pieces. Toast the bread in a 400* oven until golden brown. Toss the bread with the strawberries, cucumbers, red onion, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Add 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella if desired. Toss the salad with 1/3 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Place in the fridge and marinate for about an hour. Serves 4 as an entree or 6 as a side dish.
How to Store Freshly Picked Strawberries
A few years ago I made the mistake of soaking my farm fresh berries in vinegar water for 10 minutes before drying them off and storing them in the fridge. DO NOT DO THIS. I had read a tip that a diluted vinegar solution will keep berries fresh longer, and while this might hold true for cold-ripened berries purchased from the grocery store, this is a disaster of epic proportions for freshly picked berries. Those fresh guys soak up water like nobody’s business and no amount of air drying or paper towels will change their fate. A few hours later my berries had disintegrated into a soggy, wet mess. I ended up pureeing the whole lot and tossing them in the freezer. It was a sad, sad day and I’ve since learned my lesson.
Here are my best tips for getting the longest life out of your fresh picked strawberries:
- Sort through the lot and pull out any berries that are overripe. No matter how careful we are, there are always a big chunk of berries that are just a bit beyond their peak and won’t last even another day at room temperature. Wash and hull them, transfer into a freezer bag, and stick ’em in the freezer.
- Select an amount to eat that day and perhaps the next morning, and set them aside in a bowl on the counter. I typically choose the ripest of the bunch for this purpose. Wait to wash them until just before you’re ready to eat them.
- The remaining berries can be stored in the fridge. Layer a few paper towels or a dish cloth (one that you don’t mind getting stained) on a baking sheet. Spread the berries over the paper towels in a single layer and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Rinse just before using.
- Go through the cold-stored strawberries each morning and transfer any newly overripe berries to your freezer bag to use later.
- 8 oz. strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1 english cucumber, seeds removed, sliced
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ c. fresh basil, thinly sliced
- ¼ c. fresh mint, thinly sliced for larger leaves, small leaves left whole
- unfiltered olive oil, to taste
- balsamic reduction, to taste
- maldon sea salt, to taste
- cracked black pepper, to taste
- Slice the strawberries, cucumber, red onion, basil, and mint. Gently toss all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Divide the salad onto four plates and dressing with olive oil, balsamic reduction, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
This translates beautifully into a spring panzanella. Dice or tear a small loaf (about 4 cups) of day old bread into 1" pieces. Toast the bread in a 400* oven until golden brown. Toss the bread with the strawberries, cucumbers, red onion, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Add 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella if desired. Toss the salad with ⅓ cup olive oil and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Place in the fridge and marinate for about an hour. Serves 4 as an entree or 6 as a side dish.