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For Some, Ginkgo Trees Smell, For Others, It’s A Tasty Treat

Chef Peter Fong of Singapore in Chinatown (credit: Pat Loeb)

Chef Peter Fong of Singapore in Chinatown (credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Leob

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia area boasts a large collection of Ginkgo trees, on its streets and in parks. But at this time of year, that can seem more like a curse than a blessing. The reason? Ginkgos smell.

Eleven months of the year, the Ginkgo is the ideal street tree, says Mindy Maslin of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

“They’re incredibly hardy. They’re tolerant of urban stresses like air pollution, compacted soil, deicing salt laid down for snow,” Maslin explained.

But in the fall, the seeds drop to the ground, inside a slimy, stinky fruit that squishes under your foot and sends out an odor like throw-up or rancid cheese, making them a pedestrian nuisance and a clean-up nightmare.

The seeds can be a pain, unless you know how to cook them.

“We make a Ginkgo soup,” said Chef Peter Fong.

Chef Fong, of Singapore in Chinatown, gets a large harvest each year from a homeowner who gathers them up from his sidewalk and trades them for a big batch of soup. Fong uses them in a number of dishes. Not only are they tasty, they’re said to have many health attributes.

But you have to wonder — who got past the smell to figure out you could eat them?

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