About a month ago the air was full of a dreadful pong. The culprits? The innocuous-looking, but horrible-smelling, gingko nuts littering the ground. For most of the year gingko trees just meld in with the scenery. But come mid-fall, they take center stage, commanding the attention of the nose first and the eye second.
For little old ladies (and the occasional little old man), the telltale odor is a tip-off. Armed with plastic bags and trowels, they come out in force to pick up the nuts with their gloved fingers. (I once grabbed a gingko nut bare-handed. Big mistake. It took days to get rid of the rotting, earthy stench.) I am not sure how it is done, but proper preparation transforms these stink bombs into smell-free, savory delicacies. In fact, we had some for dinner last night at one of our new favorite restaurants. Slightly chewy and lightly salted, the roasted, yellow morsels have a unique texture and a nutty flavor that delights the palette.
A few weeks after the olfactory onslaught, the gingko’s spectacular foliage comes into its full glory. This is not the first time I have seen the fan-shaped leaves turn light green and then brilliant yellow. But every year I marvel at them anew. (Is this an age thing?) I treasure Japan’s appreciation of seasonal change. The gingko trees always do their thing in late November, just in time for Eve’s birthday and Thanksgiving.
This morning Pippi and I took an early walk, as we like to do on the weekends, and routed ourselves through Arisugawa Park. We got there before the cleaners had a chance to sweep away the thick layer of yellow leaves that had accumulated overnight. The whole park had become a yellow wonderland!