October 6, 2007

The Tale of the Ginkgo Nut
or
"Why I Sorted Through Rotting Fruit That Smelled
Like Dog Feces on My Only Day Off"

Squished orange splotches along the road alerted me to the annual falling of the ginkgo fruit this year. It's a hoot to drive around Yokosuka and spot the occasional American stepping around the horrifically smelling fruit. Some check their shoe for dog poo; others curiously stare wondering if it's a weird Japanese kumquat or badly decomposed cherry. Me? Well, I had anticipated this, literally, all year long remembering how I missed out last year. Stick with me on this long post as I take you through the ginkgo nut harvest and the wonderful pay off in the end...
This photo is the second round of ginnan, or ginkgo nuts, that I gathered in a week. This tree's fruit were a tad bigger than a cherry; the other tree's fruit were the size of chocolate covered peanuts. So, this photo was the score! I suppose the fruit only begins to smell after it falls from the tree where it quickly begins to ripen and rot. The smell is like baby poop, dog poop and vomit scrambled together and left in the hot sun. I'm not exaggerating. II suppose many people pop the nut out there on the spot but being the novice that I am, I took the bags home where they stunk up my car, turned my garage into a stench hole and made my kitchen reek for days.

After the most grueling task of removing the flesh from the fruit, (forget double bagging-try eight!) I then rubbed the nuts together in my hands under running water. This only took a few minutes. I then spread the nuts out on a towel to let them dry and turn white. I followed some foodie blog's instructions by the way. At this point, they resemble pistachios.
Now the second most tedious part: shelling. It's not like I own a teeny tiny nutcracker for situations like this so I had to use my molars. (Thanks mom for stressing dental hygiene my entire youth,) If you bite too hard, you instantly break the gentle nut... They are now a nice off-white, bordering yellow color with think husks.
I've only had them two ways: in a stir fry made by a Japanese lady and on a stick grilled yakitory-style. I decided to toss them in a hot cast iron skillet with a few drops of olive oil and a dusting of salt. In about a minute, they change from an off-white to a light yellow and gradually become a beautiful jade green. As they become less opaque and start to look almost glassy, you know they're done.
And that's the story of the ginkgo nut. The next time you're in the pharmacy isle of your local supermarket or drugstore, you'll know why a ginkgo supplement costs so damn much.

2 comments:

calabanya said...

A truly terrific blog, Jessica. Your pics are great and your prose is hilarious. I live in Kamakura, work at Yokosuka and really appreciate the enthusiasm you have for our neighborhood!!! Keep it up!

Jessica said...

Wow! Thanks! The fact that you took a few moments to let me know means the world to me!
:)