Harvesting the City's Sidewalk Nuts

By Brian Ries
|  Monday, Nov 3, 2008  |  Updated 5:08 PM EDT
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Harvesting the City's Sidewalk Nuts

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Gingko trees stand in the autumn sun.

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A writer for Gourmet.com undertook the daring challenge of eating the city's stinky Ginkgo nuts - gathered from places like Washington Square Park, Union Square, and Chinatown. While eating local is the rage at Greenmarket and the Red Hook Community Farm, New Yorkers can eat really local by just scouting their local parks and sidewalks for fallen nuts!

The disgusting part is that these nuts are evolutionarily designed to smell. Their intense odor, which has been compared to "rancid butter, funky cheese, wet dog, or vomit." Their smell is just nature's defense to animals looking for a quick snack. Your dog probably knows them as "the only thing I won't eat." 

So, how'd she do it? First, it started with some research in Chinatown, as the nuts are "fairly common in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking." Then, back at home, and after "several waves of nausea", she decided to call some of Manhattan's top chefs for advice. However, both chef Carmen Quagliata of the Union Square Cafe and Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 had little to offer, as neither had ever come face-to-face with what has been described as "nature's stink bomb".

In the end, she "egg-washed them, rolled them in flour, salt, and pepper, and threw them in hot oil." And as it turns out, they weren't half bad! I guess it's true you can fry anything, even the stinky little nuts littering the streets of New York City.

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