Thursday, October 20, 2011

Last Pick of the year- Ginkgo Nuts!

Yesterday I did what is likely my last pick of the season with Not Far From The Tree and the object of the pick was a new one for me- ginkgo nuts! Which we prompty decided should be renamed stinko nuts - oh boy do these things reek!

I got a crash course on ginkgo today. First off, nuts are only found on female trees (I can think of so many inappropiate remarks here but lets just stick to the part where trees have gender- who knew?)The term for this is dioecious, from Greek meaning "two households" and only the female trees give off that overwhelming stench - maybe to attract the male trees?

Secondly ginkgo nuts aren't really nuts. They're more like an edible pit. The fruit surrounding the pit is also apparently edible but since that's what emits the odor there's no way I'm attempting it. There's also the fact that the flesh contains an oil known as urushiol, the same substance that causes some people to react to poison ivy and similar plants. Thankfully I am not one of those people but since picking ginkgo fruit barehanded can result in an irritation that ranges from a mild rash to full blown contact dermatitis, I decided to don those lovely gloves just in case.

If all of that isn't enough to scare you off, the nuts themselves contain MPN (4-methoxypyridoxine) which is toxic. In small doses (10 or less nuts /day) it's considered harmless but larger amounts can cause nausea, cramping, vomiting, convulsions and even death (although you'd have to consume an awful lot of them!)

Even the process of making them edible is tricky.
First you have to clean off the gucky fruit (while not getting any on your skin).

Next you crack open the shell and remove the nut.

Then you need to remove the membrane

And finally you have to cook them.

Instant gratification they are not! It took me a few hours to prepare a mere handful.

So why would anyone want to eat them? Well they are very nutritious, containing potassium, phosphorus, folate and vitamin A, and traces of zinc, copper and manganese. They also have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory properties and in traditional Chinese medicine they are used for a variety of ailments, particularly for conditions concerning circulation, heart and lungs. Which is great but not really enough incentive to go through all of that if you aren't sick. Luckily they also taste delcious!

I boiled the first bunch with salt until the water evapourated and they turned bright green.

They taste bit like edamame, which they resemble, but more chewy and rich. I would have liked to eat the entire batch but decided to stop at a few to make sure I didn't over indulge. I think I'll roast the next batch with oil and salt; the cooked nuts can also be added to soup and other dishes.

Once cooked the nuts can be also be stored in the fridge for about a month. And thankfully they no longer smell like rotting milk!

Now if only my house didn't.


  1. Great picking with you!

    I kept all of mine in a closed bucket overnight and was glad to find that the flesh got soft and easy to squish off that quickly.

    Haven't shelled or cooked them yet - mine are still soaking in water with baking soda.

  2. I skipped the baking soda step - we're all battling colds so sense of smell is dampened anyhow. I only cooked the ones we'd already peeled so I still have a whole bag of frut covered ones - they are still in the bag and currently smelling up the sunporch.

  3. after we rinse them thoroughly i dry them a while in the oven, and can store in a plastic bag in the freezer for months. we take out a dozen or so and dry roast in an iron skillet. they are ready when they are a clear green jelly bean color. best eaten warm.

  4. my big question is this: once when picking them, i got squirted and the stinky old fruit juice was very sweet and good! i am considering making some gingko wine from the fruit! may have to keep it outside, but am wondering if anyone has ever heard of doing this???????

  5. I just harvested mine for the year !

    1. Your methods of cleaning and cooking them look much easier!