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What were they cleaning? Please help identify this fruit or nut! [Moved from Manhattan board]

Walking along 11th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues today I noticed a group of Asian people crouched on the sidewalk under a tree on the south side of the street. Spead before them, on white cloths, were heaps of grape-sized gold/green/tan fruits. Or nuts. The people appeared to be cleaning these things.. separating the soft shell from the actual kernel. There was scaffolding under part of the tree so I am wondering if these people had somehow climbed up onto the top to find the fruit/nuts.. Or did they just gather them from the sidewalk??

What was this??? I am thinking gingko? That is why NY is so great..always something new on the chow front!!

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  1. Think it is ginko as well.

    1. I remember when I first saw something like this ... two asian girls all giddy because they had stumbled upon a *very* prolific ginkgo biloba tree and were picking up the fruits off the sidewalk. I'm a fairly adventurous eater, but there's just something I cannot overcome about putting something in my mouth that has been near the base of a NYC tree. Too many creatures of the four legged variety use that general area for number one and number two.
      I don't need to experience the taste of any of that. (Ginkgo already smells foul to begin with).

      Image: http://www.dkimages.com/discover/prev...

      1. Yes probably ginkgo nuts. Yes the fruit stinks. Cleaning it is a hassle...but the nuts supposedly have beneficial effect on people who can't hold their water too well. The leaves helps with memory. I like it because the toothsome texture of the freshly roasted nuts is very similar to the "sticky rice corn" that the Chinese and the Koreans like. It's pretty to look at too, like a well polished jade jelly bean, the color of Lake Louise in Banff....

        2 Replies
        1. re: HLing

          Well, never having been to Lake Louise, I cannot compare the color, but I thank you all the same! There must be very few trees here in Manhattan because this is something I had never seen before. Are these nuts sold in Chinatown, for example?

          1. re: erica

            Actually there are quite a few gingko trees in nyc, though only the female ones produce these edible nuts. You've reminded me about a NYT article a few years back about the chef at Masa using these nuts from the trees in central park!

            http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/17/din...

        2. Yes, they are ginko nuts and you can find people, mainly women, selling them on street corners in Chinatown at this time of year. They gather the 'fruit' off the ground, often in Central Park but also right off the pavement all over Manhattan. One can find the same situation with periwinkles which have been plucked off rocks in the East River. Unappetizing to say the least.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jbwalker

            The funny thing is that I realize that there are two of these trees right outside my apartment and I had never notced. But sure enough, the same fruit is on the sidewalk!

          2. Ah, the tree that smells like freshly walked dog. Here's another NY Times bit about the nuts and the Asians who love them:

            http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

            3 Replies
            1. re: F Schubert

              well, this year I harvested gingko nuts from two different trees about 10 feet from each other. One had almost almond size (and shape) nuts, the other was smaller and slightly rounder. Somehow, i have some allergic reaction to the larger ones...something needing some investigation here..

              Anyway,my question is, has anyone roasted them in their shell? If so, does one have to crack each one slightly before roasting so that they don't explode? ( I'm thinking about the exploding chestnuts in the oven or fireplace. ) Right now I'm cracking them just to be safe but would like to know for sure either way.

              1. re: HLing

                There was recently a discussion of ginko on my neighborhood board -- ginkos trees are all over in NYC, although the city stopped planting female ginkos awhile ago. I take it the skin reaction is pretty common.

                There was also some discussion of toxicity, in kids that eat excessive roasted ginko nut
                so watch out ; )

                these links were offered, re: contact dermatitis
                http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/...
                http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/hor...
                http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/...
                http://www.yardener.com/AvoidingPoiso...

                1. re: pitu

                  Thanks for the links. I was able to read some of them. Yes the skin reaction is inevitable. After cleaning the fruits my hands are rough for 4, 5 days like the worst dry skin condition. Some coconut milk/oil helped in recovery, but definitely not something you want to be doing if appearance matter during those days.

                  I do need to clarify my previous statement about "holding water" since in your links it mentioned kidney. The Chinese would have the bride eat some ginkgo nuts on wedding day so that she could sit through the long ceremony without having to take too many bathroom breaks. I'm assuming that the gingko nuts have an effect on the bladder rather than kidney, but in any case, it wouldn't be something one would take too much of all the time, but saved for special occasions such as long road trips, perhaps?