How to Safely Harvest and Prepare Ginko Nuts

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Introduction: How to Safely Harvest and Prepare Ginko Nuts

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Ginko nuts are reputed to be very healthy, stimulating the brain, preventing Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases.  The leaves also can be made into a soothing skin salve. We don't know whether these claims have any basis, but we do know that roasted ginko nuts go awesome with a cup of oolong tea.

So if you notice a tree with fan shaped leaves, and plum shaped fruits which smell like dog feces it's probably a ginko.  Only the female trees bear fruit, and they need to be in proximity to a male ginko to make the nuts.  Ginkos are considered to be a "living fossil" because they have been thriving for tens of thousands of years in their current form. 

A note of caution:
Ginko seeds contain urushiol, which is the same chemical that causes poison oak, ivy and sumac to create an allergic reaction, and skin rash.  Wear gloves and protect your skin when handling the fruit!

Step 1: Locate a Ginko Tree

If you know of ginko tree in your neighborhood, you may skip this step. Otherwise, locate ginko tress in your neighborhood by going to Public Trees Map at the Neighborhood Fruit website. Put your zipcode and distance (ex. 94110 and 1) and search. Take note of the tree addresses and get ready for your adventure!

Step 2: Prepare to Go Ginko Picking

Ginko fruits contain urushiol, which is the same toxin in Poison oak.  Use tools (chopsticks) or gloves to handle fruit, and don't touch your face until after you are done (see photo below).

You will need a disposable plastic bag, or a bin to carry the fruit home in, a fruit picker, rubber gloves and perhaps chopsticks. 

Step 3: Pick the Ginko

Ginkos can be picked like any other fruit tree.  Since you want the nut not the fruit, it is completely acceptable to pick up the windfalls off the ground.

Step 4: Soak the Ginko Fruit in Water

You want to separate the ginko fruit from the ginko nut.  We have discovered that soaking the fruit for an hour or two in water before you attempt to separate them works really well.  The fruit gets water logged and slides easily off the nut.

The gesture for removing the nuts is similar to the gesture used to pull the seeds out of plums.  You want to keep the nuts and compost the fruit.

Step 5: Dry the Wet Nuts

Rinse the nuts one final time, and put them on a cookie sheet.  Put them in the oven to dry at 180 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius) for 30 to 60 min.  They are ready when the white shells are dry.  You can store them in an airtight jar for months.

Step 6: Cooking the Nuts

Note: the nuts need to be cooked before you can eat them. 

To prepare them for eating, either roast them in a cast iron skillet like you would any other raw nut, roast them in the oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) or put them in a paper bag in the microwave.  You will know they are cooked because they have turned translucent bright green.

In the photos below, you can see the difference between a cooked and uncooked ginko nut.

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    37 Discussions

    Ginko increases the risk of an Heart Attack and Stroke and should not be consumed by people who are already in risk for those.


    Also btw, every Academic free trial concluded that the effects for better brain activity where not better then those of placebo.

    But maybee they taste good, i dont know :-)

    2 replies

    I’d sure like to see what you read, about Ginkgo increasing risk of strokes and heart attacks? Because all the things I’ve read for decades, talk of how it helps get more O2 to the brain and extremities....by what mechanism can that lead to stroke or heart attack?

    Dad took it, and it absolutely, measurably decreased seriously bad lymphedema of his lower legs and feet, allowing him to keep his feet [instead of losing them to diabetic poor circulation]. Other patients used it to help decrease brain fog, and help circulation, too. Some brands did work better than others, for sure, despite some company claims.

    Hello Wupme,
    Yeah, medical claims for alternative medicines are confusing and hard to wade through, that's why I stayed out of it. 

    However, when it comes to delicious snacks, that's something I excel in.  And these puppies are delicious with tea.
    Thanks for your feedback!

    Fascinating!  I've loved ginkgo trees for years because of their neat fan-shaped leaves and the beautiful gold they turn in the fall.  I honestly don't ever remember seeing fruit before. But maybe I've just never been around a female tree that has a male tree nearby.  Ginkgo trees are rare enough around here to be kinda special.

    Thanks!

    4 replies

    Pretty much every Ginkgo that you get from a nursery (which is where most people/municipalities get them) are male clones specifically to avoid the smell, otherwise they would have a much harder time selling them.

    It's possible that your tree doesn't produce fruit because either it's A) gendered male, or B) a female that is too far from males to receive pollen.  Many cities only plant the males because the fruit can be considered by some to be a nuisance - it's stinky and abundant, and can trigger allergic reactions - so perhaps that's what happened in your city.

    Hey NativeBoy,
    I think that Poison Ivy is a bad idea to mess with, in any format.  I know three people who have ended up in the hospital from burning dormant leaves and breathing the smoke, so I would say that eating it is a REALLY bad idea.


    That used to be me too. Not anymore. Repeat exposure to poison ivy increases susceptibility. That being said, I have an aunt in her fifties that pulls poison ivy out of her garden bare handed and never has a problem, but if I were I wouldn't press my luck. You may eventually regret it.

    I have done so with success (so far). If collected in the fall, they must be cold stratified. I collected mine, soaked them in water for 24 hours, put them in loose ziplock bags with a moist paper towel (check every few to make sure it stays moist), and left them in the fridge for about 2 months. If you do this be sure to clean the meat off with a toothbrush or something, and do a couple different batches in different ziplock bags because might get moldy and have to be discarded. After stratification bury them in small pots, point down, about 1/2" deep. Some of mine took up to a month to poke through the surface, but when they do they'll get to a few inches tall within a couple weeks. I use compostable seed pots that I can put right into bigger pots when they get larger. I started this process last winter with about 7 seeds, I now have 4 small trees in pots in a cold frame outside. This was my first attempt at starting trees from seed, I tried several species and had the best success with the Ginkgo. Just make sure you keep them watered, and you should be good to go.

    I, unfortunately, picked up some fruit BEFORE looking it up on instructables. Nasty rash, with skin sloughing, on my face of course, not my hands. Found that (after several experiments) peanut oil soothed the rash. Applied it with cotton balls.
    Went back to harvest more, taking full precautions, still wound up with an itchy face. Used a baking soda and water paste on my face, which burned a bit where it had been itching, then peanut oil again, and no more itch! I didn't wait for the paste to dry, just rinsed it off in lukewarm water after a few minutes. Actually left my skin feeling lovely.

    Ginkgo does NOT contain urushiol but "Allergy or hypersensitivity to Ginkgo biloba or members of the Ginkgoaceae family may occur. A severe reaction, called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which includes skin blistering and sloughing-off, has been reported with use of a combination product. There may be cross-sensitivity to ginkgo in people allergic to urushiols (mango rind, poison sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, cashews), and an allergic cross-reaction has been reported in a person allergic to poison ivy." See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ginkgo-biloba/NS_patient-ginkgo for more info.

    Love the article, but it left out one thing, how long do you roast the nuts in the oven or microwave?

    Here's a link to an article that summarizes much of the medical research for ginkgo biloba from the Univ of Maryland.
    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/ginkgo-biloba-000247.htm

    I'm extremely allergic to poison ivy. I usually have to go on anti-inflammatory  steroids for 2-3 weeks whenever i get any on me. I would be very afraid to try these.