FORAGING IN NEW YORK CITY: Gingko nuts are DELICIOUS! Here female gingko trees (there are male and female gingko trees) drop their mature fruit onto the sidewalks, streets and parks from the beginning of November through the end of the month. Every year the timing is a bit different, though. Most of the fruits which hit the ground break and expose its flesh inside. The flesh releases a very strong disagreeable smell. But this hideous smell is not the issue here. The remarkable thing about this plant is that gingko trees have been on earth since the dinosaurs age. They have high tolerance for drought, physical abuse and air pollution and thus have been planted as decorative trees along streets in many cities. Maybe, that strong smell repels Devil, bad fortune and predators and is responsible for the survival of this ancient plant.
To foraging for gingko nuts you need one or two disposable plastic bags. If you are conscious about environment, bring a plastic or steel kitchen bowl with you. You may need a pair of thin kitchen plastic gloves (Buzz, my husband, picks them with his bare hands and he is totally OK. He washes off the stink after we return home). Now go out into your neighborhood and first look up to see if there are gingko trees. And then find the fruit-bearing female trees. They are far fewer than the male. This is because no one want to plant a female tree that produces such stinky fruit. Indeed, I have been told that the female trees we find in the city are the result of mistaken sexual identity by those who planted the trees many years ago. At the same time use your nose to detect the unusual pungent smell. Once you find the ground concentrate on picking the stinky, smelly nuts. Some passersby hurrying past the stink look down at us and have confused, bewildered expression. Others totally ignore us. Be prepared for these two reactions.
After confirming that you have filled the bag or bowl, head back to your kitchen without stopping at your favorite coffee shop to get a cup of coffee. Remember that you are carrying a good number of smelly nuts and you are surround by the smell.
REMOVING THE SMELLY FLESH: At the sink in your home with a cold tap water running, remove smelly flesh with your glove-worn hands. Buzz does this with his bare hands. Make sure that all flesh is removed from the nuts. Now you have gingko nuts which are covered with hard shells. You may wash the nuts in a lukewarm water with a little detergent. This removes complete off-flavor and any remaining smell.
DRYING: After rinsing the nuts drain them well. Spread them over a fish grill, which is placed on the sheet pan. The hard shell will completely dry in 5-7 hours, and the nuts are completely odorless after all your hard but fun work. Remember that you are going to taste super healthy and delicious nuts.
REMOVING HARD SHELL: For removing the hard shell, there is a special tool to make this process easy and effort free. You can also use a nutcracker or part of a scissors. I have posted two ways to do this on Instagram. The important tip is that you apply gentle pressure on the device, or nuts are squashed and cut in half.
ENJOY SHELLED GINGKO NUTS IN MANY WAYS:
- Deep-fry at 350-degrees F for 2 minutes; the thin brown skin will start to be peeled off during cooking; remove the nuts from the oil and sprinkle with sea salt. They are ready to consume; slightly bitter and delicious.
- Cook with sea salt: add the sea salt and the nuts in a skillet and heat until the salt and nuts are heated up. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. They are ready to consume.
- Cook in water barely covering the nuts in the skillet. Bring the liquid into a simmer and cook the nuts about 4 minutes; towards the end of cooking gently roll the beans with a skimmer-like tool. This helps to remove the thin brown skin of the nuts. Partially cooked gingko nuts can be frozen at this stage for later use. Or, these nuts can be used in chawanmushi (savory egg custard), gingko nut takikomi gohan (rice cooked with gingko nuts), and in stir-fried and soup dishes.
No matter in which way you are going to enjoy the gingko nuts, bear in mind the advice on the number of nuts to be consumed at one sitting. Go back to my archive articles for the details!
Love autumn; love nature; love gingko nuts. Thank you, autumn; thank you, nature; and thank you, gingko trees.
I am leaving for Japan tomorrow, November 7 to lead my tour, Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. Please follow me on Instagram. I will be posting photos and videos. You may want to join me with others for Kyushu with Hiroko 2019!