All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Ginnan gingko nuts

Seeds of Gingko biloba

Gingko trees grow extremely slowly, but they certainly live a long time. Some old gingko trees in Japan are said to be at least 1,000 years old. Unless you are into gardening, gingko leaf extracts for memory improvement are probably more familiar. Considering the longevity of the tree, I wonder if people started to look to the gingko tree as possibly offering an elixir for long life.

If you have passed near female gingko trees in fall, you have experienced their strong stink in the air. Inside of the smelly fruits, seeds that look like pistachio nuts are found. Roasting in a frying pan was the most common way to eat them when I was a kid. They have a slightly bitter, nutty taste. Gingko nuts are used in a number of everyday dishes; some typical ones include chawamushi savory steamed custard and as one of the goodies in ganmodoki deep-fried tofu patties. Gingko nuts can be simmered in broth, grilled, deep-fried or steamed.

Parents warn kids not to eat too many gingko nuts. As with chocolate, overconsumption can cause nose bleeds. It can also cause as spasms and other symptoms of toxicity. Gingko nuts are known to be poisonous when too many are eaten at one time. For kids under 10, the suggested maximum number of nuts per day is the same as their age, as kids’ livers are not yet fully equipped with the enzyme to help detoxify 4-O-methylpyridoxine – a substance that blocks functions of Vitamin B6 -- in gingko nuts. Even for adults, more than a dozen is not recommended. However, since only a small number of gingko nuts are usually consumed at a sitting, eating more than a dozen at once is very unlikely with normal meals.

Then why do people eat them? Gingko nuts have a long history of health benefits, including overall tonic effects, easing coughs, sputum and asthma, and relieving frequent urination and enuresis. Gingko nuts are rich in protein, beta-carotene (290 µg/100 g), Vitamin C (23 mg), iron (1.0 mg), magnesium (53 mg), phosphorus (120 mg) and potassium (700 mg).

You can buy gingko nuts in vacuum packs or cans all year round, but nothing is better than fresh ones in season, which are available at Asian grocery stores from fall to early winter. The soft inner part gets dry and hard relatively quickly, so it is better to buy gingko nuts when they just appear at shops. The edible nut meat inside the hard shell shrinks and become tough over time, and if you are not using gingko nuts soon -- within several weeks -- it is best to freeze them. First crack the hard shells and blanch the endosperm inside, and then freeze.

As an additional note of caution, gingko fruits contain an allergen called ginkgolic acid, and some people experience a rush when touching them. Make sure to wear gloves if you harvest gingko fruits! Harvested fruits are placed in a bucket and soaked in water for a week  to let them decompose, and then seeds are collected.

187 kcal/100 g; 53.6% water, 4.7% protein, 1.7% fat, 38.5% carbohydrate, 1.5% ash

Recipes with ginnan
Try ginnan in the following recipes

(Last updated: January 9, 2019)

1 comment:

Gobo said...

Wow, I'm a Japanese forager who gathers gingko and this is by far the best post I've read on this subject. Not only do you list great recipes that I know to be traditional. But the cultural wisdom concerning safe dose of gingko is priceless.