I always hated walking back and forth to elementary school, past the tree-lined playground, because of the smelly “stinkbombs” that fell from those foreign-looking trees. Asian women, donning rubber gloves, gather the little peach-colored, quarter-sized fruits in bags and I never understood why.
One day, in my adulthood, I decided to stop and ask one of these women what they did with the fruit. One lady said they are a delicacy and very expensive in local Korean markets. She also told me that they were poisonous but made a delicious soup when dropped in boiling water.
I googled this subject and discovered that those trees, common to Southeast China, are known as ginkgo trees, or maidenfair trees. I prefer to call them “el stinko” trees because the fruit contains butryic acid, a constituent of vomit. Yuck! Yet, according to research, it is supposedly delicious. If the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern wants to try his hand at sampling some, he can be my guest.
Noted as being one of the oldest living trees on the planet, its genetic line spans the Mesozoic era back to the Triassic period. Closely related species are thought to have existed for over 200 million years.
The ginkgo tree was first brought into the United States by William Hamilton for his garden in Philadelphia in 1784. It was a favorite tree of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright and made its way into city landscapes across North America.
It also has beneficial effects on the circulatory system, particularly among the elderly. Studies have shown it can help in treatment of their short-term memory loss, headache, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and depression by improving blood flow in the arteries and capillaries.
Whenever I am near it, all I want to do is hold my nose!