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Sep 5, 2011 09:36 PM

Ginkgo berries: culinary uses?

There is a tall, slender tree growing outside my apartment building. We never paid much attention to it until last fall when we saw a woman gathering its fallen berries through our living room window. After she left, we went outside to see what all the fuss was about. I picked up a berry and gave it a sniff. It smelled, quite literally, like crap. I was intrigued.

I recently identified this tree as a ginkgo tree. Aside from their alleged medicinal properties (apparently they show promise as a treatment for dementia), I still can't figure out why anyone would want these foul berries anywhere near themselves. A quick Google search turns up a number of blog posts along the lines of "Ginkgo Season, or Why I Hate Fall" and "Ginkgo trees sh*t berries". Wikipedia, on the other hand, has a segment titled "culinary uses" and claims the berries are sometimes eaten in China in congee, or at weddings.

My question: Is there any way I can take advantage of this tree right outside my window? I mean, sure, the things smell like feet, but so do some of my favourite cheeses. Is there any way to make them delicious? Or should I assume that the woman was simply attempting to stave off a bad case of dementia?

(The picture is courtesy of image search, but looks identical to my tree)

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    1. re: todao

      Thank you! Perhaps I will have better luck looking for uses for the nuts!

    2. The fruit (or flesh) is pretty much useless, culinarily speaking.

      The nut is where the action is at.

      Take the fruit and rinse it. After rinsing the fruit, separate the fruit flesh from the nut within. Then wash the nuts.

      At this point, you can either boil, toast (they taste like roasted chestnuts) or use them in soups. Sometimes the nuts are used in Chinese desserts (or dessert soups), other times they are used as stuffing in chicken or quail, and still other times they are toasted and mashed to as pastry fillings.

      1. Second the nuts. They're good! Kind of fleshy ... I usually just saute and salt. For some reason that I can't remember you're not supposed to eat too many of them.