It seems strange but after only 3 weeks in China seeing stands of bamboo and golden gingkos trees is becoming a normal looking landscape. The gingko is native to China and also called the maidenhair tree leaf have been petrified into fossils dating back 270 million years.
I was familiar with the ginkgo tree previous to this trip. I had seen a gingko trees in America and knew it as "the oldest variety of tree known to man" but thats about all I knew.
In reflection over the past few weeks I have seen how important this tree is to the Chinese tradition, culture, as food, medicine, and part of daily life. Many guides have told us how special a time to be here, when the trees are golden - gold being such an symbolic color in China. Yesterday afternoon, while swimming, the golden light outdoors from sun filtering thru the autumn yellow ginkgo trees was so beautiful it inspired this blog post.
My guess is that here at Six Senses we are only seeing the female cultivars "Liberty Splendor", "Santa Cruz", and "Golden Girl", so named because of the striking yellow color of their leaves in the fall. The females also produce less pollen! (girl power!)
In Shanghai at People 7 restaurant, we ordered roasted ginkgo nuts in half shell baked in salt.
Here they appeared in a dish with lotus root with mushrooms. Both offerings were yummy! Who knew these trees produced nuts that were even edible?
Come to find out the gingko nuts are used in congee (which is Chinese "porridge") and they are served on special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha's delight). In Chinese culture, they are believed to have health benefits; some also consider them to have aphrodisiac qualities. When eaten in large quantities or over a long period, the gametophyte (meat) of the seed can cause poisoning (oh great!!!) . Some people should handle the seeds with care when preparing the seeds for consumption as symptoms are allergic blisters similar to that caused by contact with poison ivy.
Extracts of Ginkgo biloba leaf sold as dietary supplements may be marketed to improve cognitive function, thowever there is no scientific evidence for effects on memory or attention in healthy people