Of the Earth: Seeking signs of spring in the valley

  • Kristin Nicholas of Leyden shared her recipe for coconut lamb curry with winter veggies and greens. Contributed photo


For the Recorder
Published: 4/3/2018 8:44:16 PM

I hobbled down Mill Village Road south of Old Deerfield a couple weeks ago looking for signs of spring, but I didn’t find any.

There was the frigid breeze that often funnels down the Deerfield River from Shelburne Falls, Charlemont, Zoar and beyond until it hits the shallow twists and turns of the meadows. There was the cold rattle of the rocks down near the stone crusher. There was still frost in the old furrows of the rutted fields, and there were the remnants of plantings from other years — perennials here, sod there, field corn, maybe some sweet corn stretching south over Fuller Swamp down to Bar-Way Farm.

It can be a broad but brooding stretch of road, starting up at the school, where they grow heads-of-state and financial titans, and terminating at the Lee Road, where they grow houses in the fields (to quote John Gorka). All are presided over by the gray eminence of the Pocumtuck ridge, which is either a beaver or a sachem in repose, depending on your mood.

This past weekend, I tried again. This time, however, there were new furrows and a seeder at Wells Cross Road along with rich patches of green. There was a field irrigation rig set up a little further on, and cars parked at Log Meadow Road, where folks had clearly wandered down to the river. Up toward Stillwater, there were others paddling on the riffles in the sunshine (though I certainly would not have wanted to dump a craft of any kind on the riffles just now).

Then, with a swarm of cyclists passing by, I pulled over and looked up at the Pocumtuck. It glowed, just slightly tinged with a pale translucent yellow that promises to become green — the sachem, who has awakened, turning over and reclining in the new robe of spring, gazing at the valley below. Once again, the black dirt will give life to crops and flowers that are all getting ready to do their perennial thing.

The Cutting Board

Easter and Passover have me thinking about lamb, although lamb is less often associated with Passover. At any rate, it prompts me to consider this recipe from Kristin Nicholas at Leyden Glen Farm.

Coconut Lamb Curry with Winter Veggies and Greens

“This is a simple curry recipe chock-full of delicious winter veggies and perfect for weeknights,” Nicholas said. “The coconut milk is a nice addition and adds an exotic note to the end of a long day.”

Peeling and chopping the vegetables will take the most time. If you are in a rush, Nicholas recommends peeling and chopping the veggies the night before or in the morning to save time when dinner rolls around. Add the spinach just before serving. Serve on brown or white rice.

This is a large recipe loaded with lots of vegetables. It will feed at least six people and makes great leftovers, Nicholas said. If you want to make a smaller amount, cut down on the veggies.


1 medium onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground lamb

1½ T curry powder

1 T grated ginger

½ butternut squash

4 small carrots

1 sweet potato

1 cup chicken stock or water

1 can coconut milk (13½ oz.)

A large handful of spinach or greens of your choice

Prepare the vegetables: chop the onion, mince the garlic, and peel the sweet potato, carrots and squash. Cut the orange veggies into pieces of a similar size so that they will cook at the same rate. The smaller the pieces are, the quicker they will cook.

Cook onion in a large pan until it begins to soften. Add the minced garlic. Cook for a minute.

Stir the curry powder and grated ginger into the onions and cook until it begins to smell good (this doesn’t take long).

Add the ground lamb. Break into crumbles and cook until it is no longer colored. Add the stock and coconut milk.

Add the sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. Cook until all the veggies are done to your liking (about 15 minutes depending on the size of the veggies). If it gets too dry, add more water. The goal is to have a bit of sauce to sink into the rice.

Just before serving, add the handful of spinach and let wilt.

The curry can stay overnight in the fridge. If holding it until the next day, omit the spinach. Warm on stovetop and add the spinach just before serving. Serve on white or brown rice with hot sauce.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.

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