How to Safely Harvest and Prepare Ginko Nuts

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Introduction: How to Safely Harvest and Prepare Ginko Nuts

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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36 Comments

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!

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.

Alas, the closest ginkgo tree to me is about 6 miles away.  I only wish I had some nearby.

Hey, that's a cool thing to know!

is poison ivy edible if u remove the oil?

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.


oh but i dont get a rash i can roll in it all day and nothing going to happen

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.

You are very lucky indeed.  I look at a photo of poison ivy and I get a rash!  (only a slight exaggeration!)