This week is an exciting week. Although the weather’s turning nasty, with threats of sleet and flurries, I’ll join the old ladies of Koriyama in the age-old tradition of Ginkgo nut foraging.
If you’re not familiar with Gingko biloba, it’s a strange and beautiful tree. A living fossil (e.g., old as hell), the Ginkgo has veined, fan-shaped leaves with varying sized lobes and which sometimes look like chubby, poorly drawn cartoon hands. In Spring and Summer, the rough leaves are a gorgeous emerald, whereas in the Fall, they become pleasantly soft and turn to a striking golden yellow.
After reading about its potential yet-entirely-refuted-by-many-scientific-studies health effects, I began combining my morning runs with Gingko leaf foraging, picking them up along the way and afterward steeping them in hot water with green tea and the questionable mint I found down by the nearby Sasahara River.
While these trees are shedding their foliage for the winter months, the female species in particular are also shedding their nuts. And girl, do their nuts smell awful. People have described the odor of crushed Gingko nuts as rancid butter, dog poop, hot garbage, bad cheese, rank body odor, etc. I personally agree with the declaration that they do, undeniably, smell of an accumulation of college-years’ vomit.
This will not be my first time collecting these nuts; I went on a short foray some weeks ago that ended stupidly. After my run, I washed off the globular, orange fruit and popped it into my mouth. Unfortunately, I had chosen the only article to have incorrectly advised just how to prepare a Ginkgo nut, which was not at all – just pluck and pop.
Luckily, this mishap wasn’t fatal, and I had a good laugh about it with some of the students.
Making mistakes is a beautiful thing, as long as it’s not fatal, of course. In the classroom, I try to be a positive teacher, encouraging students to try using the language creatively. Sometimes, though, it comes down to the students themselves. There must be a willingness to slip up, go wrong, goof, make a boo-boo or a hash of things.
During my Japanese courses in New York, I was incredibly nervous to use the language in front of my peers, but they and the teacher were kind and nonjudgmental. I made countless blunders and my pronunciation was doubtless horrible, but the fact is that I tried and had fun while doing so. Not putting forth the effort or at least trying to join in on the classroom frivolity would’ve been a detriment not only to me but my classmates and teacher as well.
With my knowledge now of how to properly eat Ginkgo nuts, I’ll try again this week and see how it goes.