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Free ingredient can be found everywhere


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Free ingredient can be found everywhere

peanuttree | Oct 8, 2007 10:21 PM

Hi people, just to tell you if you weren't already aware - ginkgo nuts can be found almost anywhere. The ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba), besides providing the ginkgo nuts which are an ingredient in Chinese cuisine and were/are marketed as a memory aid (which isn't true, by the way), is an extremely tough tree that can handle any kinds of environmental conditions and pollution, and so it is planted frequenly in cities and towns and just about everywhere. You can easily identify a ginkgo tree by its leaves, which you can see in the pictures I have posted.

In early autumn (i.e. now/around the time of this posting), female ginkgo trees drop their fruits (the fruits develop with or without pollination - no males necessary). The fruits are yellow, spherical and about the size of a cherry, and they emit a nasty, sitnky odor as people squish them as they walk on them (remember, they're planted in cities). The odor smells like rancid butter. The yellow flesh surrounds a pit, and this pit consists of a "husk" or "shell" which surrounds the "nut" which is the part you cook and eat. The nut itself is sort of oblong or oval-shaped, like a tylenol, but more rounded/less cylindrical. Scrape off the yellow flesh, crack the shell with a nut cracker/hammer (this may be difficult as the squished flesh makes the pit slippery), and extract the nut.

When cooked, the nuts will turn green. The cooked nuts have a certain musty odor/flavor that goes well with rice. Add the nuts as you boil the rice. You don't need to use too many as the flavor comes through pretty easily, and too many might be overwhelming. Five for a medium bowl of rice (like 4 cups cooked) should be enough. The nuts provide some protein and some carbs - but since you don't use many they don't really provide much nutrition in general.

Some warnings though, the raw and cooked nuts contain a certain toxin that children are especially sensitive to. Never let a child eat more than 5 nuts in a day. Furthermore, the toxin can accumulate over time, so don't let a child or you yourself eat too many too frequently. Also, some people's skin might be sensitive to the flesh of the fruits, so be careful when collecting them - I myself haven't had this problem. As for being careful with regards to the usual caution you should take when collecting your own food from the wild (well, not really the "wild" in this case - like I said you'll se it in cities/towns), there isn't much to worry about, since there aren't many plants that have leaves like the ginkgo's, and none which have leaves that look like that AND have yellow stinky fruits. The ginkgo doesn't have any poisonous look-alikes or relatives (it doesn't have any living botanical relatives period, as a matter of fact).

I collected some once at my college (Fairleigh Dickinson in Teaneck). I can't really remember the taste too well. I can remember it was kind of weird and musty, but they weren't bad, but they weren't great either, and they do definitely go well with rice. I haven't gone out of my way to collect some more, but if I see another tree when I'm driving, I might pull over and col;lect some again.

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