Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Trip to Canada’s Capital City

Is it the end of the month already? Where did the whole month go? 🙂 This month’s guest post is by Cux, who talks about her foray into one of the very interesting cities of Canada.



Toronto is a great city… spectacular architecture, a great array of lovely restaurants and a buzzling arts and cultural scene… all add to its charm. But it is the classic international city! Very multicultural and diversified, it somehow lacks a unique identity. Having lived here for a while, I was determined to get around and explore other Canadian cities.
When a couple of my friends from the Czech Republic turned up in Toronto, it was the ideal opportunity to go visit Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. These cities were so different in their architecture, culture, signature food, and the outlook of their inhabitants that it was a real pleasure to be there. It was fascinating, to say the least.
Ottawa, the main center of the Canadian government, is a quiet, introspective city which mesmerized me with its colonial buildings and Victorian structures. The many walking trails that weave around the city gives one the opportunity to investigate its varied environments. Whether it is the Discovery walk that begins at the Canadian Museum of Civilization on the banks of the Ottawa River, and ends at Parliament Hill, or the walking trails around the Provincial Parks, all of them provide unique experiences.

My tour companions were seasoned walkers and helped me keep up my enthusiasm for walking throughout the trip.
The beautiful Alexandria bridge that connects Ottawa to Quebec is a beautiful sight. Ottawa has the most well-kempt parks and gardens. Also, it is home to the Canadian Tulip festival.

We saw the Rideau Canal which totally freezes over and becomes the world’s largest skating rink in the winter. The canal was opened in 1832 and is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Gallery of Canada houses the most creative art that I have seen in Canada till date including a landmark sculpture of a spider in front of the building. The sculpture, named Maman by the artist Louise Bourgeois, is among the world’s largest sculptures, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide. It is made of bronze, stainless steel, and marble.

We sat in for a parliament session as well… it was interesting to watch the proceedings in the House of Commons though we were more taken in by the stained glass paintings and the intricate architecture of the hall! Do take a look
The Byward market is the happening place in town, lined with posh cafes and shops. Interestingly enough, adjacent to it, was an old old farmers market. This, I thought, was a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. I found the best cookie shop in this market where I tasted cookies designed as Canadian flags.
The friend in Ottawa who hosted us was a good cook and lived in a lovely house in a great locality. He introduced us to homemade maple butter, the next best thing to chocolate. Since then, I am hooked on it.
At some distance from the city, on the way to Montreal, we checked in on Plaisance National Park, which has a beautiful lake and some scenic wetlands, spread across the Ottawa river.

That was the best hiking trail of the trip.


It felt like walking in the wilderness of a natural forest. Protected by forest range officers, this huge park is good for camping. I hope I can go back there with my family sometime in the future.


And my photographer friend captured splendid shots of the floating gardens, open fields, flora and fauna including deer, squirrels, ducks, and beavers.
More about Montreal and Quebec City later…


31 Mar 2014

A Peep into Spring

The annual Flower Show at Macy’s kicked off last Sunday, March 23rd. And the temperatures are still hovering around freezing. So the flower show feels like a look into the long awaited spring… a reminder that spring will get here eventually.
The flower show takes place in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. This year, the show will last till the 6th of April (2014). This is the 40th annual flower show to be held at Herald Square in New York.

Dazzling, stunning, gorgeous… any number of adjectives can be used to describe the show. It is attractive and colourful… as only flowers can be.
As can be imagined, a lot of effort goes into putting up this show, which consists upwards of 30, 000 flowers, kept fresh throughout the two weeks of the show and replaced as required. As soon as one flower show is over, the planning and planting for the next year’s show starts right away.
None of the pieces on show are wasted and thrown into garbage, once the show gets over. All the trees are replanted and all the wilted flowers are turned into compost.
The flower show is usually arranged around themes. This year, one of the themes was ‘Under Sea Garden’. Take a look at these plants…
[cycloneslider id=”under-water-garden”]

In addition to the flowering plants, this year on display are 23 flowering cherry trees. Also, some palm trees are also in the show.

A 14-ft tall mannequin in a ball gown woven of red flowers – mainly roses, gerberas, anthuriums – is the highlight of the show. As per the flower show tour guide, the dress is made up of individual flowers in holders so that each one can be replaced individually without affecting the whole of the dress.


The dress consists of close to 3000 flowers. A closeup of the dress…


The whole show is arranged on bridge like structures above the shopping aisles and around the pillars, providing a dazzling view from the mezzanine floor.

Also, massive gates with flowering creepers climbing over them, are placed along the path of the show.

Workshops and demonstrations related to the art and craft of gardening and flower arrangement are also held around the flower show.
Indeed an hour’s respite from the freezing winter…


27 Mar 2014

Union Square Greenmarket – a cornucopia of delights

When my work group moved from our midtown office to the downtown office, one of the things I really missed was the once a week lunch time walk to the Union Square Greenmarket. Now that I am back at the midtown office (Yay!) and the weather is turning reasonably walkable, that is the first place I chose to walk to!
It is an amazing place, specially for a food-loving person like me. The open air market is held four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM – in a three-square-block area that is part of the Union Square Park, along Broadway at 14th street. Though it is a year round market, the tempo varies according to the season. Even now, when It is just picking up pace after a long long winter, the variety of stuff available is great. But just wait for a couple of weeks… man, the bounty of nature floods the place with such abundance!

A cloudy downcast day at Union Square Greenmarket

A cloudy downcast day at Union Square Greenmarket

The history of the Union Square Farmer’s Market is an impressive one. The Union Square Park has been in existence since 1839 when it was designated a public place and named Union Place as it was the site of the intersection or union of two major streets.

After the second world war, the park started to deteriorate and had fallen into disrepute by the 1970s, being frequented by drug dealers and similar characters. This kept the general public away from the park, as it was generally considered unsafe.
In 1976, a new initiative, the Greenmarket program, was set up in New York city, to promote small scale agriculture by providing a viable market to family farms for their produce, at the same time ensuring that the teeming millions of New York city got access to fresh, nutritious produce delivered directly to their localities.

The Greenmarket program – now called GrowNYC – selected Union Square as the location for its second market in the city, after the one at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue.

And the Union Square Greenmarket began functioning in the parking lot surrounding the park, with 12 farmers. It played an important role in revitalizing the neighbourhood by attracting consumers who valued the quality of the products.


Today the Union Square Greenmarket is an upscale market selling high-quality products, all fresh from within truckable distances. On an average, the market receives 250,000 customers per week. More than one thousand varieties of fruits and vegetables can be found during the produce season. Even on a cloudy day recently, with the rain threatening to start falling any minute, there was still a bustling crowd, milling around the many stalls. In addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables, there are stalls selling varieties of plants, herbs and cut flowers.


Tulip plants…




Cut flowers…

A wide variety of baked goods, cheeses, pickles, maple products…


The whole place is fragrant with the smell of herbs and fresh bread and cookies, it is a pleasure just walking around the place.



The number of farms that participate in the Greenmarket has grown to 140 at peak season. A recent addition to the market is the participation from fisheries.

New York is supposed to be a haven for pet dogs; you see the largest number of them here. And no market place can be complete without catering to them. In addition to various food items, here are a bunch of bones for them to chew on…


Once the weather gets a bit warmer all kinds of arts and crafts stalls will open up, giving the market the looks of a lovely fairground. Can’t wait…


24 Mar 2014

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

When we talk about birds, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is one bird that has fascinated me ever since I first saw one at Murchison Falls National Park, many years ago. Since then, I have seen these beautiful birds a number of times on subsequent trips to Murchison and they always make me smile.



Hornbills are generally sedentary and live within a defended territory. The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is a large turkey like bird that is normally found in the sub-Saharan African savannah, north of the equator. An adult bird can grow to around one metre tall and weighs about 4 kg. It has a large bill topped with a casque, a helmet like structure. Despite their wingspans these birds very rarely fly and are adapted to ground dwelling, hence the name Ground hornbill.  Abyssinian Ground Hornbills also have wattles (a fleshy pouch hanging from the throat, similar to a turkey or chicken). From these pouches, one can distinguish between a male and female bird as males have a bright red pouch hanging from their throats whilst those of females are blue. These birds  always seem to me like they are dressed up for a fancy party not only because of their dark , shiny feathers and brightly coloured pouches, but also their long eyelashes, which are actually modified feathers designed to protect their eyes from dirt and debris.


I learnt many interesting things about these birds from a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide who had accompanied us on our game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. He told us that the Abyssinian ground hornbill mated for life, which is interesting but one hears that about a lot of birds. What was most fascinating (for me at least, not sure about the others with me!) was finding out about how these birds lay eggs and look after their young. In the case of a regular hornbill, the female lays eggs in the cavities of tree trunks or any other caves or crevices of a tree. The male hornbill then builds a cover over the cavity with mud and twigs and the female does not leave the nest until the eggs are hatched. Naturally, it is the duty of the male bird to bring food for his partner during this time. So if something were to happen to him while he was out fetching his bird wife food and he gets killed, the female will also die of starvation. But Abyssinian Ground Hornbills do this in a slightly different way. They do not seal their nests at all, and they are left open during incubation so the female can come out for preening and excretion. Not for anything else though, the male still has to bring food back to the nest.  Once the eggs are hatched, the female remains in the nest with the chicks for a week and then joins the male in finding food for the young. If there are two chicks the younger one is usually ignored or starved.  Chicks are ready to leave the nest after 3 months. These nests are normally permanent under favourable environmental conditions.



The Abyssinian ground hornbill is listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its large population. So I don’t have to worry about them disappearing anytime soon. 🙂

20 Mar 2014

An important announcement

We are happy to announce our new blog Pepper Route, A global food trail

The chief focus of Pepper Route is food, food and more food. The creation as well as consumption of it… in all its variety and splendour. You can count on an endless array of recipes and other food related information, including interesting food trivia. So visit us there and enjoy the reading. And of course, Like us on Facebook, +1 at Google+ to keep in touch. Looking forward to lot of fun together!


The Big Jackfruit Tree Admin



17 Mar 2014