Eat Autumn – Ginnan (Ginkgo Nuts) –
Autumn is here now. From my atelier window, I can see the leaves changed the colour into yellow, orange and red. People stop outside and take photos of the wall covered with colourful leaves. Just beautiful.
Turning the colour of leaves is called Kouyou (紅葉) in Japanese and literary written "red leaves". Contrary to sakura (桜/ cherry blossoms), Kouyou comes down from the north, Hokkaido to the South, Kyushu. People go to the mountains or a park to contemplate this colourful spectacular. This is called Kouyou-gari (紅葉狩り), which means coloured leaves hunt. I know, "hunt" sounds strange but the original meaning of 狩り was to enter the mountain to get something. It can be animals, mushrooms, nuts or Kouyou because you "get the view".
Autumn is the harvest. A lot of tasty food fills your table. One of them is Ginnan (銀杏), Ginkgo nuts is the English name. Ginkgo trees are very common in Japan and many are planted as roadside trees. The leaves turn to bright yellow in autumn and the fruits are getting ripen. These fruits are Ginnan.
Only problem is, it stinks, a lot.
The other day, I was reading a book about Bonsai, one of the neighbour came up and told me that he´s passionate about it. He told me about how to take care about miniature trees, which tools you can use and so on. He seemed to be very happy to find out the person (me) whom he could talk about his passion with.
A few days ago, I saw him on the street, having a coffee. He stood up and ran into the café to get an empty paper cup. He wanted to give me some ginkgo nuts he collected from somewhere. When he opened the plastic bag, a woman sitting near him immediately frowned. Yes, the smell.
He started, "You know, the only problem is this horrible…"
"Smell" I continued. He looked relieved.
According to the neighbour, it´s not common at all to eat ginnan. I don´´t know if it´s tasty but it definitely tastes autumn. There are not many way to eat and we eat them either roasted or in chawan-mushi (茶碗蒸し), savoury egg pudding.
The texture is rather soft and slightly sticky, never be crunchy like roasted nuts but still quite roasty. The taste, there is a hint of bitterness, which I didn´t like so much when I was a child.
When I ate it for the first time, I found it in a chawan-mushi. My mum told me that was ginnan and it came from ginkgo tree. I couldn´t imagine. I asked if it was like acorns and she replied, "No".
Much after, I saw and smelt them on the street in autumn and I finally related those stinky mushy fruits to the small yellowish nuts. There are so many fall on the street but some how we only eat little. As a child, I was only told that I shouldn´t eat so many ginnan.
Ginkgo nuts have lots of good properties, high nutrition, adaptogenic, loosens phlegm and suppresses cough. In some studies show ginnan are effective on dementia or brain dysfunction. It´s very good for our health but there are some side effects too.
If you eat too much, it may trigger twitch, vomit or increased hear rate. Hm, a little scary. This is because ginnan contains Methylpyridoxine, which impedes Vitamin B6 to work. Those symptoms are the lack of Vitamin B6.
This affects to kids more easily than adults and that was why I didn´t eat them so much when I was small.
Now I have to do all the process to get these tiny nuts. First I wore the rubber gloves to take the seeds out. It so stank that I was worried the smell might come through the gloves. Fortunately it didn´t happen.
After washing them well, I started smashing gently with a hammer. Sometimes I lost control and smashed the nuts completely but most of them survived.
Then I threw them in the pan without oil and started to roast. I put a pinch of salt. You need to move the pan quite often because when it gets hot, it starts hopping. If you don´t want to lose them or you don´t want to get attacked by hot ginkgo nuts, just keep moving the pan.
When it´s done, the colour becomes slightly yellowish and the think skin comes out easily.
Now they are ready to eat. By the way, about 30 nuts is the limit for adult per day and only five for children. Perhaps it´s not so recommendable to leave a bowl of roasted ginnan on the table if you have small ever-hungry children.
Next time if you go to a park with lots of ginkgo trees, not only looking up and contemplating the bright yellow leaves but also look down and collect some fruits to try a taste of autumn.
It´s nice to eat seasonal food to feel the season with your entire senses.
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