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In this part of the country, where you dare not venture into the midsummer garden during daylight hours for fear of becoming lunch for one of Alabama’s 60 species of native mosquitoes, spring comes early. We’re not quite out of February yet, but my gardener friends are already firing up their tillers and gleefully unpacking mail-ordered seed potato stock. At Bellingrath Gardens, just south of town, they are gearing up for the annual Azalea Watch. Starting next Monday, you can log in daily to see the progression of 250,000 azaleas as they transform the gracious old estate into 63 acres of riotously ruffled color.

Spring themes are showing up in the work of my artist friends, too. Using this stoneware cup from Steve Dark’s pottery studio in Gulf Shores, you can wet your whistle with a thistle (and a bird… which IS a whistle):

And in her rural Magnolia Springs studio, Anne Webb makes elegant pots from local clay and embellishes them with brushwork dragonflies:

Our winter garden is providing us with broccoli, chard and green onions now. We’ll start harvesting cabbage, peas and old-fashioned Morris heading collard greens in a week or two. There are three bags of red LaSoda potatoes piled on the back porch, ready for the potato patch. (Red LaSoda, the creamy-fleshed mutant form of a market potato popular in Lousiana in the 1940s, is the potato of choice in this region.)

But even springtime has its downside. For reasons known only to the mysterious inner workings of my immune system, I come down with a nasty cold every year at this time. Generally healthy all year, I can count on spending the first week or so of March slouching around with pockets full of wadded Kleenex and a voice like a bullfrog. When I first met The Perfect Man, he won my heart by cooking up a curative curried carrot soup. Now it’s an annual cold-season tradition (and extremely tasty anytime).

Curry Carrot Ginger Soup

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1-3 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for five minues or until soft. Add the carrots and apple juice and cook for three minutes. Add broth, ginger and curry powder. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 40 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.

Remove from heat. Working in batches, pour the soup into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in honey and salt and pepper to taste.