May 9-10, 2015
Saturday, May 9 is the day of the Iroquois Steeplechase at Warner Park in Belle Meade. Once upon a time, I would have heartily endorsed attendance at this annual event. It seems, however, that what used to be “Nashville casual” event where you would fit right wearing jeans, eating KFC and drinking Budweiser has turned into a pseudo-social event where hapless, tipsy women negotiate muddy terrain in designer heels and Pinterest-inspired headgear. Throw a nasty snarl of pre- and post-race traffic into the mix, and you will understand why I am keen on finding a reason to get out of town!
Fortunately, Saturday May 9 is also the day of the annual Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Portland, Tennessee – less than an hour north of Nashville on I-65. The annual Strawberry Festival is timed to (usually) coincide with that magical moment when local berries are at their peak, and I’m here to tell you that there is no tastier strawberry than a perfectly ripe one from the farms in Portland! This is a small town festival, with the usual complement of activities (pancake breakfast, 5k run, berry eating contest, live music, kids’ play area, food and merchandise vendors, parade, fireworks), so you can spend couple of hours drinking in the local flavor before finalizing your purchase of berries. The “Strawberry Lane” market will be open from 9am to 4pm. I recommend picking up at least one flat (12 pints) of berries.
Then, hightail it home because you’ve got to do something with all those strawberries! Here are 6 good ideas for you to consider:
- Take a pint of strawberries to the neighbors who check your mail when you’re out of town.
- Freeze a couple pints of berries. (Hint: to prevent the berries from becoming waterlogged, leave the hulls/crowns on as you give them a quick wash, then set them in single layers on cookie sheets lined with paper towels to dry. When dry, remove the hulls. You can then place the berries – whole or sliced – into freezer bags or vacuum bags, taking care to remove as much air as possible – and pop into the freezer! (Don’t forget to mark your bags with the date so you will know which batch of strawberries to use first!) Thaw by placing the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
- Have Strawberry Shortcake for dinner! When I was a child, every so often we would have fresh strawberries and biscuit-like shortcake (i.e. not very sweet), served with milk and a little sugar, as our dinner entree – what a treat for the kids! Sometimes, we’d even have a couple strips of crispy bacon to complete the meal. YOLO! This recipe for Almond-Oat Strawberry Shortcakes from the Bon Appetit test kitchen isn’t exactly like Mom made, but it looks great and I think it will be the recipe I use this year.
- Make a strawberry-themed cocktail. Of course, the Strawberry Daquiri springs to mind as the obvious choice, but why limit yourself? A few years ago, Imbibe Magazine published an intriguing collection of strawberry-themed cocktails using a variety of spirits. The Bourbon Street cocktail looks delicious to me!
- Bake a delicious Tres Leches Cake to serve with sliced, fresh strawberries. Take the cake to your mother’s (or mother-in-law’s) house to enjoy after church. (You were planning to attend services with your mom on Mother’s Day, right?) Offer only the slightest resistance before agreeing to take the leftover cake back home with you.
- Eat fresh berries! According to the Medical News Today website, a WHOLE CUP of unsweetened strawberries has just 50 calories. Also, strawberries are among the foods highest in antioxidants, which means they fight the free radicals that promote blood clots, inflammation and tumor growth. Strawberries have a low glycemic index, making them a smart choice for persons with diabetes. Strawberries may even fight depression, because they contain folate, which prevents excess build-up of homocysteine (which blocks production of serotonin). Plus, they’re delicious – so there’s that!
I’m feeling a bit remorseful regarding the snarky comments I made about the Iroquois Steeplechase. Perhaps in the future I fall back in love with this event. But for now, I’m thinking that my Mother’s Day weekend will be filled with strawberries – doesn’t that Sound Like Fun?