Ginkgo nuts

What Doesn’t Kill You…

Every season brings a new mystery food to our local grocery stores. Today, while browsing the local produce section, I saw a bag of mystery nuts.

Turns out they’re raw ginkgo nuts (ginnan/ぎんなん in Japanese). In addition to the well-known benefits of mental superpowers, the gingko nut also helps the respiratory and circulatory systems and attacks free radicals.

They’re also toxic.

Luckily, I didn’t know what I’d bought, so I did some googling and learned all this before tossing one down my gullet. When cooked, they’re considered a delicacy in many Asian cuisines, but they’re still to be eaten in small quantities as the toxin is heat-resistant.

I cracked one open, just to see what was inside (because I’m a male and that’s what we do). The nut is soft, bright green and smells like stinky cheese. I’d include a picture, but because I’m male and didn’t have the proper opening tool, I smashed it real good, so there’s not much left of the poor test nut.

In Japanese drinking establishments, they’re a popular snack, roasted and served on a stick. They’re also a popular addition in a traditional New Year’s dish called chawanmushi (steamed egg custard).

I’ll probably go the roasting route, although I may also try the “leave them in the fridge until they start to smell like stinky feet” method.


  • Reply Amy Daraghy December 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Robert, I’m glad you didn’t just toss it down your gullet! I have smelled the noxious fumes this fruit creates when it falls from the trees and rots. Or maybe it’s fermenting. I sure could use some mental super powers though.

    • Reply Cascadian Abroad December 20, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Ugh… I can’t imagine smelling it en masse. Just one was bad enough!!

  • Reply KronWeld December 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Robert – When you come back to Salem Oregon, you can harvest them yourself. There are trees growing on Center Street in next to the L&I building, I think it is. Anyway, across Center from Revenue and West less than a block. You can eat them and reminisce about Japan!

    • Reply Amy Daraghy December 24, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      There are indeed gingko trees found all over Salem. An interesting thing about the ginkgo is that the male and female flowers are found on separate trees. With any luck, most of those planted as street trees are male trees so won’t produce the odiferous fruit. I don’t remember ever noticing any fruit from the ones by the L&I building, but maybe the groundskeepers keep it cleaned up.

    • Reply Cascadian Abroad December 26, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Interesting. I still haven’t gotten around to preparing them. Maybe this weekend.

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