Homemade by Kara: Cherry blossoms in Mississippi?
Mississippi doesn’t always get a lot of love from other parts of the country – in fact, we sometimes get completely overlooked by those looking for scenic places to visit in the spring. And that’s too bad, because our state is full of natural beauty, from delicate dogwoods to breathtaking azaleas and hundreds of other flowering trees and shrubs. Best of all, many of Mississippi’s finest foliage grows wild in rural settings or off the beaten path. The only way to experience all our state has to offer is to take a trip or at the very least plan to stop and enjoy scenic spots as you head to other places.
Here is a list of a few areas filled with some of nature’s best beauties right now. Feel free to email me if you want me to share any of your favorite places.
1. Pick up any travel magazine or browse the internet and you’ll likely read and see photos of the breathtaking cherry blossoms in bloom in Washington, DC and New York’s Central Park. As a result, I wondered if Mississippi, known for its ability to grow almost anything in our rich soil, held any of the bright pink flowers. I was surprised to learn that the elusive flowers grow in northern Mississippi. In fact, I just missed the Tupelo Cherry Blossom Festival.
Even though the trees are difficult to grow here, the experts at Parks and Recreation in Tupelo have done an incredible job of cultivating the rare flowers, so much so that an entire festival is held for visitors from across the country to enjoy them. enjoy. This is something I will definitely plan to attend next year. Trees are still blooming in the city, but call before you go to make sure our delicate weather hasn’t decimated the delicate blooms.
2. If you’re hiking the Natchez Trace this spring, take the time to slow down and look for flowering dogwoods and redbud trees. You’ll also be treated to miles and miles of wildflowers, azaleas, and other spring foliage growing in natural settings.
3. To the west of the state, Vicksburg National Military Park is brimming with beauty this time of year. Put aside your feelings about the infamous war and drive through the hills to see over 60 varieties of flowering trees and shrubs. Expect to see dainty dogwoods and Japanese magnolias, plus multicolored blooms and bright green foliage throughout the spacious grounds.
4. In Natchez, azaleas are in full bloom throughout the river town, along with a multitude of brightly colored flowers and shrubs. Walk around one of the pre-war houses to admire beautiful gardens or simply drive around town to see spring abound in nearly every street.
5. The eastern part of the state is also filled with scenic spots. Two of them come to mind: Dunn’s Falls and the historic Rose Hill Cemetery in Lauderdale County. Both are filled with dogwoods, azaleas, and other spring flowers.
6. A little further south, Crosby Arboretum in Picayune is also home to cherry trees, but with slightly different blossoms than Tupelo. Magnificent black and chokecherry trees bloom alongside dogwoods, azaleas, star anise and other natural plants and flowers spread throughout the 104-acre native plant center.
All the cherry blossom talk has led me to search for an old cherry blossom cookie recipe. It’s one of the easiest cookie recipes you’ll ever try, but it doesn’t diminish the taste of these sweet treats topped with Hershey’s Kiss. Like the cherry blossoms in Tupelo, once they’re out, they don’t last long.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email him at [email protected]
Spring Cherry Blossom Cookies
Yield: 50+ cookies
Cherry blossoms aren’t just blooming in the nation’s capital and New York. The town of Tupelo is blessed with many cherry blossom trees which are at their peak at this time of year.
• 1 ch. butter, room temperature
• 1 ch. icing sugar
• ½ tsp. salt (more to taste)
• 3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
• ½ tsp. almond flavor
• 2-1/4 tsp. chopped maraschino cherries
• 50+ Hershey’s Kisses, unboxed
• A few drops of red or pink food coloring, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat butter, icing sugar and salt until well blended.
2. Add cherry juice, extract and food coloring, if desired, and mix well. Gradually stir in the flour, then stir in the cherries.
3. Shape the dough into one-inch balls. Place an inch apart on greased baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.
4. As soon as the molds are removed from the oven, press a chocolate cookie into the center of each cookie (the edges will crack). Let cookies sit on pan and cool for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool.