squish off fruity layer
crack shells, soak
simmer 30 minutes
|A gingko, lovely as it is with its evocative nickname—maidenhair tree: for its fan-shaped leaves resembling the pinnae of the Maidenhair fern.—raining gold in the fall, the seeds concealing edible lucky green jade, is not a good reason to buy a house. But as we considered living in that house, I noticed the garden/landscape had some unusual plants. I looked up and saw a tree to fall in love with. Of course, I looked down and picked up some of the seeds. I won’t fall in love with another house; I know better now.
I am not thinking about the house plants I could grow in the big living room window, about how the library will have enough room for most of our books, about where I’ll put things in the kitchen, how to get rid of the lilies of the valley, how I’ll arrange my “office”…
Ginkgos have been planted around temples in China and Japan, keeping off evil spirits, protecting against fire (even atomic bombs), the seeds are auspicious symbols for celebrating weddings. The leaves used medicinally for a digestion aid, relief of hangovers; increasing sexual energy and to stabilize the production of sperm; treating problems with heart, lung, asthma, bronchitis, wheezing, cough; memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease…
Ginkgo nuts are available in Asian markets either fresh (in the fall), canned, or frozen. If you have gathered your own, you must first get rid of the smelly outer layer. To prepare fresh nuts, crack open their shells and then pour boiling water over the nutmeats. Let them soak for about ten minutes until their skins are loose. Peel off the skins, then put the nutmeats in a pot full of boiling water, let it simmer for about thirty minutes, then drain. Rinse canned nuts before using. Japanese cooks add ginkgo seeds (called ginnan) to dishes such as chawan mushi, soups, and nabemono, stir-fries, rice. Cooked, salted seeds are often eaten as a snack with saké.
The remainder of this post is paraphrased from The Ginkgo Pages
—an excellent source of information about ginkgo trees:
During the time of the dinosaurs seed plants (spermatophytes) were well developed and were the most dominant vegetation on earth, especially the lush seed ferns, conifers and palmlike cycads. The Ginkgo is the sole living link between the lower and higher plants. These primitive seed plants are called gymnosperms (meaning “naked seeds”) because their seeds are not enclosed in a ripened fruit but are protected by a fleshy seed coat.
Most gymnosperms (and flowering plants) have both sexes on the same plant, but the Ginkgo is a dioecious gymnosperm, male and female are separate trees. (apparently sometime female trees have a male branch grafted on to provide for fertilization)
The Ginkgo and the cycads are the only living seed-producing plants that have motile or free swimming sperm.
The leaves of the ginkgo are unique among seed plants, being fan-shaped with veins radiating out into the leaf blade: two veins enter the leaf blade at the base and fork repeatedly in two.
The seed has a fleshy outer layer (the sarcotesta) which resembles a plum, attractive, but it contains butanoic acid which smells like rancid butter or feces when fallen. Beneath the sarcotesta is the hard sclerotesta (what is normally known as the “shell” of the seed) and a papery endotesta, with the nucellus surrounding the female gametophyte at the center.
The fleshy outer layer also contains small amounts of urushiol, an allergen that on contact with the skin is responsible for poison ivy contact dermatitis in sensitive people. When gathering the ripe fruits wear rubber gloves. Squeeze out the seeds in a bucket of water, wash them thoroughly and then dry them. After that they look like a large unsplit pistachio nut. Continue reading above
about how to prepare fresh ginkgo nuts.