The Ginkgo and I
November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
For about a week I was puffed up from my wild chestnuts. Chestnuts not exactly being a chupacabra, no one was very impressed, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like King of the Edible Plants Several Blocks from my Home. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on a lot of secrets. It didn’t help that I was more interested in what some savy Asian families were collecting on the street than what nearby herbs neo-hippies recommended I make tea with.
As I boasted to some of my co-workers, I nudged them to ask if they, perhaps, knew any edibles I’d missed. One of them paused. “I’d always see people coming on campus to pick whatever was falling off the Ginkgo tree,” she laughed, “I remember because it smelled terrible.” Ginkgo, eh?
In high school, they were one of my favorite trees, largely because I knew their name. We’d had a falling out when I noticed their leaves looked a bit like Tulips, and became unable to distinguish them from Tulip trees, or remember which one it was good luck to catch a leaf from. I knew there was one on my way home, and I knew I’d spotted something golden under it this morning running to the bus. Jackpot.
Sure enough, there was fruit. Small, round gold fruit the color of apricots and the shape of a cherry. There were only a few fresh ones on the ground. The Ginkgo itself had no trace of fruit. Did they fall from a different tree? I looked around, walked in some circles, jumped up and down. Finally I spotted them. High up, far above where I could reach, the Ginko was heavy with gold. Of course. Someone had already come by and taken everything within a ladder’s reach. So there *were* edible! I scooped up a few and dashed the final blocks home like a madman.
STEP 1: SMASH!
Googling was in order. I heartily enjoyed this article. To my disappointment, the outer fruit (actually sarcotesta) itself isn’t edible – it’s the white nuts inside that are prized. I gingerly smashed the fruit gently under my shoe to push out the nuts. The vague smell of dog shit wasn’t quite the vomitrious horror I was expecting. Well, then, survived that. What next?
STEP 2: CRACK!
Ok, I had the seeds. They weren’t white as I’d been promised. With the application of a nutcracker I found that sure enough, the little white nuts were hiding inside.
STEP 3: PEEL!
Wait, those still aren’t white! They’re just little green beans! Onward, I suppose? The instructions said to gently peel off the layer of film surrounding the nut. It said to wear gloves in case I had a weird reaction to it – I went in bare-handed. No nuts scare me!
STEP 4: UH…BOIL?
Ok, I had four tiny bean-nut things that were a little worse for wear from the peeling. I had no idea how to eat them, and the internet was conflicted. I boiled them for a while, which was fun to watch, but ultimately didn’t make them look any more appetizing than a waterlogged pea.
STEP 5: FRY!
Taking a page out of the article I liked, I pulled them out of the pot and into the pan. I fried them in salt, pepper, and a pinch of flour….ok, so I’ve never been adept at following instructions, and surely throwing some flour in the pan is the same as deep frying. It did the trick, though!
At this point N. came home. ”I cooked us Ginkgo nuts!” I proudly held out my open palm with the four tiny beans in it.
“Wow, that’s…really not enough for dinner. You know that, right?”
Well, ok, so I had to cook an entire other meal. I won’t bore you with the details of that. But the four little nuts were so good we both gobbled down two and wished we had more.
Everyday now I crunch over the golden nuts and leaves of that living fossil on my way home. It’s tempting to scoop them into my pockets and roll them out on my back patio, just to taste them again. But not quite tempting enough to make me arrive home and greet my boyfriend with kisses and squishy, shit-stinking pockets of Ginkgo. Someday, I tell the nuts and I -crunch- -crunch- past them, I will return with my plastic bag. And they squish and say, no you won’t, you’re lazy, and we’ll be all rotted by then. Shut up Ginkgo nuts! You’re too much work anyway.