Ginkgo nuts are usually first recognized by their pungent, and often unpleasant, odor. The smell has been compared to cheeses like camembert and gorgonzola. The nuts grow from the ancient maidenhair tree, the leaves of which have been used in traditional medicines. Ginkgo nuts are widely used in Asian cooking. They are also high in a number of nutrients, such as potassium, thiamin and niacin.
Put on the latex gloves and remove the hard shells of the nuts by gently breaking them with the nutcracker. Be careful not to damage the nuts inside. Soak the nuts in a bowl of warm water to loosen the skins.
Remove the inner skin of the nuts with your hands while still wearing the gloves. The skin should peel off readily after being soaked. Don't remove the gloves until the skins have been discarded.
Roast the nuts in a saucepan. Use a medium heat, and keep turning the nuts to keep them from burning. If you intend to eat the nuts as a snack, no other ingredients are needed. If you are using the nuts as part of a recipe, use water, oil or butter as required at this stage.
Cook the nuts until they are a light green. Eat alone as a snack, or chop up and add to the dish of your choice.
Ginkgo nuts already shelled and skinned are available in a can. Check your local Asian grocery and look for "white nuts." Ginkgo nuts keep well within the shell, but once they are shelled, they should be used as soon as possible.
If eaten in excess, ginkgo nuts can cause a mild form of poisoning. The nuts contain a chemical called MPN (4-methoxypyridoxine), which can cause cramping or bloating. This chemical is not destroyed during the cooking process. Gloves are used in the peeling process to guard the skin against the chemical, which can cause peeling or blisters.