Ginkgo Nuts | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly of Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong

Ingredient: Ginkgo Nuts

Ginkgo Nuts

One saying suggests that eating ginkgo nuts, also called silver apricots (in Chinese 銀杏), can help keep our skins young and enable us to live longer. If this is true, then the nut might be a economical yet edible cosmetic.

What I can’t doubt is that there is a concrete example speaking for its tenacity. After the nuclear bomb blast in Hiroshima, Japan during World World II, one of the only plants that survived was a ginkgo tree. Remarkable is, a temple situating next to the tree was destroyed, but the ginkgo tree remained is still alive today (location: 15-22 Sumiyoshi-cho, Naka-ku).

Ginkgo Tree


Ginkgo Tree
source: Ginkgo biloba

Colloquially, we also call the seeds, ginkgo nuts, yielded by the ginkgo tree, ‘white-fruits (白果)’.

Benefits
It has been known among Chinese people that the ginkgo nuts are mostly beneficial to our respiratory system including asthma, bronchitis, and coughs. Some even believe that they are good for people suffering from over-active bladder and children with bed-wetting problem. I use them often for culinary purposes, like cooking in soups, desserts, or even in porridge for added flavors.

Limitations
May I warn that they are potentially toxic when uncooked and should not be taken ‘too much’ at a time. Yet don’t be threatened and stop considering it as a food. I have eaten these white fruits for ages and still feel thrilled to write this post. Actually, they haven’t made me or my family ill so far but instead they always infuse a subtle yet unique sweet flavor to my dishes.

The term ‘too much’ is hardly quantifiable. Some say five, some, ten, within a day. I usually put in roughly a dozen for a soup to be shared among two or more.

Cracking the nuts
Like many other nuts, silver apricots have hard shells which can easily be cracked by using a nutcracker, hammer, or even the back of a cleaver. But never attempt to do it with your teeth unless you want to find a reason to visit your dentist. When using a hammer, I would recommend wrapping the nuts in a plastic bag so that the broken pieces won’t jump around.

Here is a little bit tricky, apply only enough force for cracking, or the meat inside the shell will be mashed (but is edible). I can’t tell how much is enough, if you are so unfortunate that you mash the first, the second nut … probably, you should get the right hit at the third. Honestly, even I do it right from one to ten, sometimes I make a bad attempt at the following ones but it is still fun when having a proper crack.

Ginkgo Nuts

Ginkgo Nuts

Removing the membranes
Now, just get the kernel out from each cracked shell in one piece, but be careful of the sharp broken edges. To remove the brown membrane, briefly blanch the kernel in hot water and rub off their membranes. When preparing ginkgo nuts in soups, I would simply throw them in the water with the membranes because they themselves will come off in a couple of minutes and float to the surface after which it is easy to remove them with a strainer. Then, continue to boil the water for the soup.

Removing Ginkgo Nut Membranes

Shelled nuts
It may be more convenient to buy the ginkgo nuts shelled, which are usually vacuum-packed or canned. Despite of that convenience, I still prefer them in shells with which their fresh flavors are intact.

The bitterness
I think the experience of tasting ginkgo flesh is somewhat similar to that of bitter melon. I know many people love their flavors, but still some do not. Most of the bitterness actually comes from its mature embryo, which can be found and removed by cutting the nut lengthwise apart. Because the bitter taste is insignificant to me (but I am not a fan of bitter melon), I always leave them as they are. Besides, I don’t find embryo in every ginkgo nut.

Ginkgo Nuts

Storing
Ginkgo nuts deteriorate and/or grow moldy quite easily especially under high humidity. In fridge, they shall be kept in good shape for up to a month (depending on how long the retailers have stocked up them). Once shelled, either get them frozen or consume them immediately.

Buying
I can easily buy whole ginkgo nuts from grocery stores here in Hong Kong at the price of HKD15-20 per 500g. In supermarkets, however,they are mostly available shelled and in vacuum packs.

Approaching the drier season, we frequent more nourishing dishes like sweet soups. One of the most popular ones here is the ‘Boiled Dried Tofu Skin with Ginkgo Nuts 白果腐竹糖水’ (link updated on April 30, 2011).


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Comments

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  1. 5 Star Foodie

    Terrific info on ginkgo nuts! Thanks for sharing!

  2. sensiblecooking

    That is nice information. Very useful.

  3. Little Inbox

    My mom uses it to boil dessert soup with dried longan and red dates. I have not use it in my cooking.

  4. penny aka jeroxie

    Great write up about gingko nuts. I love fresh ones but hate the peeling process.

  5. Christine@Christine's Recipes

    The ginkgo nuts are very good in making chinese dessert, like you said, Boiled Dried Tofu Skin with Ginkgo Nuts. I sometimes cook them in plain congee that helps clean our digestive system.

  6. Mary Moh

    Thanks very much for sharing about the gingko. I have only had it in dessert soup a few times. A friend cooked it for me. I remember I went with a friend to a Chinese shop as she wanted to buy these but the man in the shop told her not to eat it frequently cos it’s very toxic to the body. So, she ended up not buying any!

  7. TasteHongKong

    @MaryMoh,
    I’m afraid that gentleman is misleading.
    As I said, the ginkgo nut is potentially toxic if it is uncooked and taking a moderate amount (details above) of the nuts could be beneficial to our bodies.

  8. Mei Teng

    I love gingko nuts. They’re great in vegetable dishes and desserts.

  9. TasteHongKong

    @Mei Teng,
    Indeed, gingko nut is quite a common ingredient in Chinese vegetarian dishes.

  10. tigerfish

    I like 白果. I did not know about its potential toxicity when I was younger and I think I ate quite a lot – probably more than 10 in a single serving! It was only in the last few years that I have heard about the toxicity if consumed too much. I love them in desserts and used them in savory stir-fry before (with scallops and asparagus) – very nice :). However I usually don’t buy them raw – so I have less work to do.

  11. Heavenly Housewife

    I’ve heard a lot about ginko nuts before, but never seen one till your blog. Fascinating post! Its amazing how that ginko tree remained after the bomb.
    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  12. Angie's Recipes

    Miss ginkgo nuts and the soup made with them and beancurd sticks.

  13. Tastes of Home (Jen)

    Thanks for the detailed info on ginkgo nuts! I love them in dessert soups usually…I have not bought them raw before though but it’s interesting to know how to prepare them :)

  14. Juliana

    Oh I love ginko nuts in sweet soups…but have to confess that never seen it in its shell :-) And look forward to the recipe…

  15. Cindy

    Oh I never know they come in white casing~!

  16. Janis

    I love Ginkgo nuts in Chawanmushi. VERY hard to find here in New England. Loved your post!

  17. TasteHongKong

    @Janis,
    I love Chawanmushi with ginkgo nuts too.

  18. Cristina @ TeenieCakes

    I luv this post about the Ginkgo. Ginkgos are my favorite trees and I absolutely adore them…I have several planted and two very old ones potted. Thank you so much for sharing this post about them. I’ve never seen a Ginkgo nuts before.

  19. TasteHongKong

    @Juliana and Everyone,
    I have posted the sweet soup recipe with ginkgo nuts here, enjoy!

  20. The Cheese Goddess

    Lovely post! Very interesting stuff that I didn’t know before. Do you think health food stores will start carrying these anytime soon, I wonder?

  21. TasteHongKong

    @Cheese Goddess,
    Thanks for your kind words! I doubt if they will, considered the relatively short shelf life and inexpensive pricing of ginkgo nuts.

  22. angiegirl

    One of the many things I fell in love with in Tokyo is ginkgo nuts. It was served on a platter of salt in the sushi bar where we went. The trees are all over Tokyo. I regret not buying some dried nuts or seeds when I saw them in Tsukiji market.

  23. TasteHongKong

    @angiegirl,
    Wish you find them next time! Right, fried ginkgo nuts with salt are great as hors d’oeuvres.

  24. Mary Sholler

    I have 2 gingko trees that my father planted at our house over 20 years ago. They are, I believe, 2 female trees as they both produce ungodly amounts of berries every fall. An elderly chinese woman would come around every fall and we would help her box them up, as we didn’t know what to do with them. All we knew is the outer membrane smelled like dog poop :-) but she told us what she used them for and we were happy to give them to her. Unfortunately, she passed away and so this year so I’m not sure what we will do with them now. Thank you for the great article! :-)

  25. TasteHongKong

    @Mary Sholler,
    Thanks for sharing. You had been very kind to the old lady, who should be very grateful to you.
    Apart from cooking them in dessert, you may also consider grilling the ginkgo nuts by applying some oil and salt, and serve them as an appetizer or snack. I believe it couldn’t be happier than sharing your home-grown nuts with friends and family. Sometimes, we simply add a few of them in vegetable stir fries. Whichever, they must be well-cooked. By the way, ginkgo nuts may deteriorate easily especially under high temperature or high humidity. For storage, keep them in freezer. And, enjoy!
    Just curious if you have ever weighed the nuts from each tree : ).

  26. Angie

    I asked someone to pick up some Gingko nuts for me as I plan to include them in my Thanksgiving meal. However, the nutswere very dry inside the shell. Are they still edible if I simmer them in water to re-hydrate them? Or should I toss them out and get fresher ones.

  27. freeport

    I was just out today hunting for gingko nuts to add to congee! Thank you very much for the excellent info.

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  31. Arthur in the Garden

    There is a very large female tree near North Carolina State University which is about 4 stories tall. I have collected a buck of fruit and intent to try out some of your ideas.

  32. Angela

    Where can I buy gingko nuts in London. I have yet to find a shop which has even heard of them!

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