Stinkberries

They were actually the berries from ginkgo trees planted throughout the city at one time, but all the neighborhood kids called them "stinkberries."  The freshly smashed ginkgo fruit - their putrid stench magnified by the sun were to be avoided at all cost….unless you were the Fong kids growing up in DC at Bing’s Carryout where we lived what most would call a "frugal" existence.  We recycled and reused everything.  So when those berries from the nearby gingko trees would ripen and fall to the ground…oh boy! 

To most others, these berries were a nuisance and a stinky one at that. To Goong Goong and Pooh Pooh (my grandfather and grandmother) they were a veritable bonanza… – for inside the stinky outer fruit and skin was a nut used in old world Chinese recipes, free food.  Obediently my sibs and I ventured out with a pair of tongs each and a single bucket…it was collection time!  The horror. The embarrassment. The finger-pointing and taunts from other kids, “Dem Chinese kids picking up STANK Berries!  Hahaah!!!!”  Little did they know of the hidden gold inside those berries. With the fruit washed away…inner nutshells oven-dried…and nuts cracked open and separated from the shell…taaa-daaaa….Ginkgo Nuts for soup!  ...and, sellable in New York's Chinatown for cash.

Place(s): Washington DC

– Tom Fong, DC Chinatown Community Advocate

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant