Today I picked up some gingko nuts and a bitter melon at the Korean Zion market. I have no idea how to prepare either, but they look fun and I love playing with my food.
The gingko nuts are encased in a light cream colored shell and packaged in a mesh bag. I also scored some fat glossy chestnuts and thankfully, I do know how to roast those. I’m very excited about the chestnuts because last year I bought some from a local big box store and they were green and moldy inside when I opened them. It was insult to injury as I paid an arm and a leg for them! I was so upset, I actually returned the moldy nuts to the store and the manager told me that he thought they were for decoration only. What? Ugh. Insert biggest eye roll HERE.
I took out my trusty nut cracker and cracked open the delicate gingko shell. The nut inside was soft golden green color. It had a blue cheese aroma and squished easily between my fingers.
I tasted it and it did have a creamy cheese texture and taste. Cool! I could spread this on crackers! As I continued to taste, there was an annoying little voice in the back of my mind. Perhaps I should have read up on this newbie to make sure I was ‘doing it’ right? Maybe there was some sort of preparation?
Details and instructions have never actually been my thing, but perhaps I should have cooked this nut? Panicked, I ran to the computer and to the ‘Goog’. Instant searches revealed my worst fear. I should NOT have eaten the raw nuts. The nuts should be cooked for at LEAST ten minutes in boiling water before being added to soups like congee or stir-fry. These instructions were followed by a dire warning — not only is the raw nut toxic (same compound that is in poison ivy), but an adult should not consume more than eight cooked nuts a day. What? I don’t buy foods with LIMITS! Oh shoot, I have been poisoned. I ate the damn raw nut because it came in a cute mesh bag….
I took the bag of poison nuts and chucked in the trash. Sorry Gingko! So promising and yet so risky. Why would they sell poison nuts at a food store? They should be in a poison store, or a voodoo store! Anyway, I’ll type faster now as I really don’t know how much time left.
Bitter melon, also known as ku kua, foo gwa, karela, balsam pear and bittergourd, is a member of the cucurbitaceae family and looks like cucumber with warts. Yum, warts!
As the name implies, it is bitter, the most bitter of all fruits, and is apparently an acquired taste vegetable. People apparently love it or hate it, so my excitement has been renewed. I like foods that have such strong personal reactions. Bitter melon has been used as a folk remedy in China, India, Africa and other parts of the world.
Before I cut the bitter melon open and start eating it, I decided that perhaps I should learn from my poison gingko mistake and do a little more reading. Ok, here it is. If I eat more than two bitter melons a day (raw or cooked) I may experience explosive diarrhea or stomach cramps. I only bought one, and really who cares, I’ve already been poisoned. Here it goes!
I washed it with my trusty Veggie Wash that naturally gets rid of any coatings and *who knows what* else that may have been on it. I then slowly cut it into raw and warty slices. There is a fleshy white filler that surrounds the big seeds inside. Those can all come out, as it’s just the outside dark green part that I’m after. It’s crispy and tastes like a bitter green pepper. I’m thinking this would be fabulous diced up and lightly stir fried with garlic and salt.
So, yes, sure — if you eat a bunch of these a day you may find that you’re digestively cleaning house. However, check out the health benefits! Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. This is a fun one and I’ll experiment more with it.
Until next time — should I survive the poison nut.