Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Experiment in Local Eating

Yesterday Clara and I were out running errands in a large shopping center close to home.  As we drove in, I saw two Asian ladies crouched down on the ground picking up fruit that had dropped from one of the many gingko trees which line the parking lot.  Well, I am not one to miss out on a good thing!  After we grabbed a little lunch, I pulled off to the side of the lot under one of the female trees and collected about ten of the little fruits.  

As soon as Clara went down for a nap, I started Googling.  Ha ha.  One of the first things I learned is that Gingko fruit contains urushiol, the same chemical found in Poison Ivy/Oak. It's highly recommended that one wears gloves when collecting the fruits.  I must've been lucky ~ I picked only the best looking fruit.....not squished or oozing liquid.  Good thing!  

The second thing I learned is that the fruit is not collected for the fleshy part. In fact the fleshy part can be toxic if consumed in large quantities. These fruits are prized by certain Asian cultures for the nut inside.  I found some step by step instructions here and followed them....

This is what the fruit looked like.....

Per the instructions, I soaked the fruits whole for two hours.

I then removed the nuts from the fruit....using my latex gloves the entire time!

I coated the nuts with a little oil and then roasted them for about 45 minutes.

This is what they looked like after.  On the left is one of the nuts I'd cracked open.  You can see the seed inside....

My verdict?  The seed was rather mealy and gummy although I rather liked the nutty flavor ~ it was reminiscent of chestnuts.  Still, after all of the effort, I'm not sure it was worth the work involved.  I don't know if I cooked it correctly or enough.  I'd read the nut/seed should appear green but mine never did.  Maybe if I found the right recipe....

This article from Gourmet magazine was very interesting to me and somewhat mirrors my own experience....although I never fried them up....and certainly don't intend to.  

It was rather cool to try something new. I found it all rather exciting.  The Chinese even believe these nuts are an aphrodisiac.....hmmmm......I guess you'd probably have to eat more than two to notice a difference!  As for the smell, I never noticed it.....but I don't have a strong sense of smell.  Some cities have banned planting female gingko trees because of the foul smell created by the rotting fruit.  This saddens me.  These trees are living fossils and, for me, produce some of the most beautiful foliage.  Remember this photo?  Those yellow leaves are gorgeous gingko leaves ~ they turn yellow in the Fall.  In fact, we'll be visiting that same site in about a month! 

I'm curious......has anyone else tried Gingko nuts?


  1. I love ginkgo trees, not just living fossils but design classics! But I've never found/cooked/eaten the fruit, how intriguing. I was intrigued by your photo with the rubber glove, not your usual sartorial style for a photo I'd guess - i'll never forget that now: always gloves for ginkgo!

    1. Haha, no. I suppose if I attempted to "style" a photo, I wouldn't choose a yellow rubber glove to put in the background. But I keep it real around here! (smile)

  2. Like you, I love ginkgo trees! That yellow color in the Fall is amazing! Never tried the nut inside, but then, I have read about it being toxic, so I try not to take chances! The monks planted two gingko trees just beside their steps beside the church and the only large window there overlooks these trees. Clever monks.


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