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Weekly nature walk – High Park

High Park is such a Toronto treasure! Our group enjoyed a wonderful nature walk today with naturalist Miles Hearn. There were a lot of birds around today – Miles listed 41 species on his nature walk report today: double-crested cormorant, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, gadwall, wood duck, red-tailed hawk, ring-billed gull, rock pigeon, northern flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, eastern pewee, eastern kingbird, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, American robin, veery, blue-gray gnatcatcher, European starling, blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, warbling vireo, tennessee warbler, nashville warbler, northern parula warbler, yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, American redstart, house sparrow, red-winged blackbird, Baltimore oriole, common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, northern cardinal, house finch, American goldfinch, chipping sparrow, song sparrow.

I found it impossible to photograph some of the little warblers in particular today, with my point and shoot camera. By the time I’d locate the bird on the screen and zoom in as tight as possible, my target bird would fly off. My best bird picture was of a Northern flicker, which was happily shopping for a meal in the grass right near us.

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Northern flicker

I also snapped a nice shot of a pair of wood ducks up at the top end of Grenadier Pond.

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wood ducks

Here’s a few of the other birds we saw….

There is a lot of poison ivy in High Park. This time of year the leaves have a reddish tint about them.

Speaking of nasty plants, we came across a huge patch of stinging nettle.

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stinging nettle

This next shot is a nice comparison between black oak and white oak.

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black oak vs white oak

Here’s a selection of other plants we talked about today. Some of these I was previously familiar with, but others we new to me in terms of identification.

 

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Things go better with fish sauce

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Yesterday I realized we were almost out of nuoc mam – that super-fantastic fish sauce concoction that makes just about everything better. I use it regularly, not just for making a tasty dipping sauce with some garlic and hot chilies and lime juice, but also in soup, in braises, and in all kinds of sauces.

Vietnamese fish sauce, like many fermented foods, is a source of a taste known as umami, that savory flavour which, combined with a great variety of foods, enhances their best qualities.

I trundled off to Grant’s market, a great Asian specialty store, to re-up. While there, I also bought some frozen squid, a package of Vietnamese fish balls, some fried tofu, and then headed to the produce section, where I saw a vegetable I hadn’t seen since we were in Vietnam – morning glory. I love this stuff!

I recognized it right away – long hollow stocks with long, narrow leaves. It was being marketed as ton choi, but Mr. Google quickly confirmed this veggie is known by several names, including tong choi, ong choi, water spinach, Chinese watercress, rau, or course morning glory.

The first time we ate morning glory was in Hoi An, in Vietnam. It was stir-fired with lots of garlic, and it must have been cooked with a wok on an open fire, as it had a kind of wood-smokiness about it. Later on our vacation we had a similar dish in Can Tho, in the Mekong Delta – it was very good too, but not as good as the dish we enjoyed in Hoi An, which was perfect.