Ginkgo nuts are seeds of the exceptionally malodorous fruits of ginkgo tree (botanical name Ginkgo biloba). Though the fruits have a pungent odour, the seeds are extremely popular in Chinese as well as Japanese cuisines, particularly dishes that are prepared on special occasions.
Ginkgo trees are indigenous to East Asia and it is believed that their origin is in the deep woodlands of China. Ginkgo trees are very large and they usually grow up to a height of 50 meters. These trees are very hardy and possess the ability to survive even in an assortment of environmental conditions. A dioecious plant by nature, male and female ginkgo trees exist separately. In other words, the same tree does not have both male and female parts. In present times, ginkgo trees are cultivated in nurseries for the therapeutic value of their leaves. In addition, they are also grown along the roadsides as ornamental trees. The female trees of this species bear fleshy, round to oval shaped fruits that are roughly the size of Chinese dates (small jujube).
The exocarp or the external pulp of the fruits has a horrible odour. Botanically this exocarp is known as sarcotesta. In the centre of the ginkgo fruit is a solitary hard-shelled seed that is surrounded by an edible embryo or kernel. In fact, the edible ginkgo nut is a gametophyte enclosed by a slender membranous layer inside the hard shell like you find in pistachio. The kernels of ginkgo measure anything between 1.5 cm and 2 cm long and about 1 cm across. The color of these kernels is light jade green.
In fact, ginkgo nuts are among the oldest known herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Precisely speaking, these nuts have been around for over 200 million years old and their botanical name is "Ginkgo biloba". Originally, the Europeans discovered this plant way back in 1730 and it is currently cultivated in nearly all parts of the globe.
In actual fact, ginkgo nuts are edible gametophytes of Ginkgo biloba (also known as Maidenhair) tree. They are similar to nuts. The kernels of ginkgo nuts comprise unbelievable phytonutrients as well as antioxidants. At the same time, they are also a source of ginkgo-toxin, which is neurotoxin. This is the reason why one should consume ginkgo nuts in limited amounts if they wish to enjoy the food and still be safe.
When ginkgo nuts are ripe they develop an oval shape, which measure roughly 1 inch in length and their color varies from light yellow to green. Ginkgo fruits are persimmon type and its pulp surrounding the nut should be removed. Usually the fruit has a pungent smell that is disliked by most. After removing the pulp, the seeds should be dried and cracked. Many people suggest that the nuts should be boiled for around 10 minutes so that the external flesh of the nuts drops off from the nuts' core. Generally people do not consume the core of these nuts because they have a bitter flavour.
Similar to various other nuts, even consuming ginkgo nuts may result in nut allergies. In case you have never eaten ginkgo nuts, you may begin with eating a few in the beginning. Here is a word of caution: you must wear gloves while removing the pulp of the ginkgo fruit. It has been found that some people may even develop dermatitis when they come in contact with the pulp of this fruit. However, if you wish to eat ginkgo nuts but do not want to go through all these troublesome process, you can buy them from Asian grocery shops, especially Chinese shops, located in the United States.
In China, people often add ginkgo nuts to stews, soups and stir-fried dishes. They may also be consumed independently. While ginkgo nuts have been a popular food in China and Japan, they have drawn the attention of Americans only recently. The nuts are gaining popularity among the Americans owing to their quality to help retain and enhance memory. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ginkgo nuts are believed to be an aphrodisiac.
One reason that ginkgo trees are held in esteem and also revered is that they have been around since ancient times. According to scientists, ginkgo trees have been in existence for more than 100 million years. In the past, these trees may possibly have provided food to animals. Consuming ginkgo nuts in present times is actually consuming a food that was probably cultivated as well as eaten by early humans.
Ginkgo nuts enclose valuable phytonutrients and, hence, offer us several health benefits. However, these nuts are neurotoxin and may also cause nut allergies. Hence, they need to be consumed in limited amounts.
Consuming herbal preparations with ginkgo nuts is beneficial for everyone, particularly feeble children and elderly people. Consuming these seeds on a regular basis is beneficial for the nourishment of the skin, maintaining youth, dilating capillaries, boosting the energy levels, enhancing metabolism, helping to get a longer and healthy life. At the same time, they help to provide a prompt healthy look.
People in ancient China were the first to identify and use Ginkgo biloba for the plant's therapeutic properties. People in China took herbal preparations with ginkgo for the supposed cognitive benefits offered by the nuts. They also claimed that taking ginkgo also helped to alleviate the symptoms related to asthma. In fact, these nuts as well as the leaves of the plant have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. They also used the leaves of Ginkgo biloba to cure brain and circulatory disorders. The leaves were also used for treating respiratory problems.
The ancient Chinese also used ginkgo nuts for treating cough and believed that these nuts possessed aphrodisiac properties. On the other hand, some people believed that if a person consumed more than ten ginkgo nuts in a single sitting, they may get poisoned. Apparently, ginkgo perks up blood circulation, which in turn may be beneficial for the better functioning of the eyes, ears, legs and even the brain.
It is likely that ginkgo may also work like an antioxidant and help to inhibit Alzheimer's disease and get in the way of changes brought about by this malady. Since ginkgo nuts are said to possess antioxidant properties, consuming them may be helpful in avoiding persistent ailments such as cancer. The antioxidants present in ginkgo nuts work to protect the body from dangerous compounds that are responsible for harms to the cells in our body.
People suffering from health problems like anxiety and depression as well as mood swings need to take ginkgo because it has a tendency to maintain the balance of various hormones in our body. This, in turn, helps to cure these conditions. Ginkgo nuts are good for promoting the functioning of the cognitive system too. Often ginkgo nuts are added to congee and various other dishes that are prepared on special occasions like the Chinese New Year and wedding ceremonies. In the Chinese New Year, these nuts are basically used in a vegetable dish, which is known as Buddha's delight.
Since long, ginkgo nuts have been an element of the traditional food items prepared in the cuisines of the Far East Asia. Compared to other tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and others, ginkgo nuts contain very low calories. For instance, 100 grams of freshly obtained, raw ginkgo kernels provide us with just 182 calories.
Conventionally, people in China ate ginkgo seeds or nuts to alleviate breathing problems as they believe that these seeds bestow them with yang (warmth) consequences. They also believe that consuming the kernels of Ginkgo biloba helped to cure various ailments such as bronchitis, asthma and aliments related to the urinary tract.
In general, you may use small quantities of ginkgo nuts in the form of a medicine rather than using them as a source of a staple food. In other words, these nuts cannot be used as you use other edible seeds and nuts. When you consume ginkgo nuts in limited quantities, they will provide a number of health benefits. On the other hand, consuming them liberally may cause harm such as allergies and poisoning.
It is worth mentioning here that ginkgo nuts contain small quantities of a number of vitamin B-complex such as niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamine, riboflavin and folate.
On the other hand, ginkgo nuts are a storehouse of various essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium and copper. In addition, it also contains the trace mineral selenium. In fact, copper is also an essential trace mineral which is necessary for metabolism, neurotransmission and synthesis of red blood cells (erythrocytes).