Did you know that parts of the ginkgo tree are edible? The ginkgo fruit is highly regarded as a Chinese delicacy, but if eaten raw can be toxic. When the fruit is dried out and cooked the toxic qualities are diminished and are often used in Asian soups and congees. The ginkgo fruit is also used as a health supplement for treating colds and the leaves may provide further medicinal benefits through helping to enhance memory, though research has shown mixed results. The dried leaves are often used to make herbal tea.
If you’re thinking about collecting the fruit yourself here is a note of caution: ginkgo fruit contains urushiol, which is the same chemical that causes allergic reactions to poison oak, ivy and sumac. Make sure to wear gloves and protect your skin when handling the fruit!
Be daring and try out these unique recipes that use ginkgo nuts as one of the main ingredients.
It’s advised to wear gloves while collecting and preparing the ginkgo fruit.
Dried Bean Curd and Ginkgo Nut Dessert
This popular Chinese dessert can be served hot or cold, suitable for all seasons. Serves 3
• 20 to 25 ginkgo nuts, shells removed, available at Asian stores
• 1 to 2 pieces dried bean curd sheets, available at Asian stores
• 50 gm barley, or to preference
• 3 eggs, optional
• 1500 ml boiling water
• sugar, to taste
1. Rinse the barley and the ginkgo nuts. Soak barley in water for about 30 minutes. Rinse dried bean curd. In a separate bowl, soak dried bean curd until softened.
2. Put the barley and the ginkgo nuts into boiling water. Cook over medium heat, covered, about 30 minutes, or until all ingredients are softened.
3. Add the softened bean curd. Continue to cook until it breaks into pieces, or cook until it turns into soy-milk-like texture. (Note: After adding bean curd, it easily spills over the stove. Be careful.) The cooking time depends on how you like it. Add sugar and cook until completely dissolves. When the dessert is almost done, you can add eggs and cook to your preferred texture. A suggestion would be to break the eggs and add into the dessert, immediately turn off the heat and let the mixture heat in the pot continuing to cook for about 5 minutes.
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Roasted Ginkgo Nuts
After collecting the ginkgo nuts, discard the smelly, fleshy outer layer. Thoroughly wash the nuts in cold water, dry completely, place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in a 300° oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and, while still hot, gently tap each with a hammer or the bottom of a heavy skillet. The thin shell will crack, revealing the sweet green nut inside. Use roasted ginkgo nuts as you would toasted almonds or peanuts—in salads, pilafs, or finely ground for use in pie pastry or in traditional Chinese egg custard.
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