Coming out of the deep fryer lime green looking like bright green jaffas, gingko nuts are not your usual bar snack.

However, after trying them deep fried and salted you might be left wondering why they are not more popular.

Popular in Japan but hardly known about in New Zealand, the gingko tree and its fruit have a less than ideal reputation because of its rather unusual smell.

"Think a blue cheese-esque odour," said local chef Helen Turnbull.


"They stink out my whole car but the nuts are a delicacy in east Asia and I spent many hours preparing the nuts in a previous life as junior chef in a traditional Japanese restaurant."

Top: Raw gingko nuts straight from the tree. Bottom: After being deep fried and shelled the gingko nuts are lime green. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Top: Raw gingko nuts straight from the tree. Bottom: After being deep fried and shelled the gingko nuts are lime green. Photo / Rosalie Willis

Not put off by the smell, Helen, who owns 50-50 restaurant in Paraparaumu, was supplied the nuts by Mike King from Finders Eaters Foraging who sourced them locally.

With female gingko trees only producing the edible nut for four to six weeks, Helen is incorporating them onto her menu for the next month.

"I like doing something different and I like to use unusual ingredients, presenting them in a different way.

"I think when you go out for dinner you want to have an experience, not just have something you could have at home.

"They're very popular in Japan and they're also very healthy."

Normally served as a hot bar snack, the nuts are best deep fried, shelled and salted.

"A lot of people who come in are like, 'what is this bright green thing?' But the feedback has been really nice — people who come in here really like to try something different."


Working with Mike whose innovative start-up is focused on foraging for unusual plants and mushrooms for a variety of different purposes including culinary use, gin botanicals, and floristry, Helen is often given obscure finds to try and create something tasty out of.

"As an experienced arborist, Mike's tree work has allowed him to experience a number different environments, and build an ever-growing data base of plant products and their uses."

"The fun thing is he will bring stuff in that I've never seen before let a long tasted, so I'll go through a process where we'll poach it, fry it, dehydrate it, blitz it, and try all the classic methods of cookery and see what brings out the flavour and what texture works best with it."

Mike has found a number of gingko trees in Kāpiti which turn a stunning bright yellow at this time of year.

The exotic species is one of the oldest types of tree in the world.

"It has such a short season and the nuts are fresh for at the most one week after picking.

"Working with Mike means I get to tap into an amazing array of local produce and get to use both indigenous and exotic plants, fruit and nuts to create an authentic New Zealand dining experience."

Helen changes 50-50's menu regularly working with fresh, seasonal produce and is currently serving braised beef brisket with pickled nashi pear, crispy smoked onion, basil-mint and gingko nuts.

"It's a delicious dish which makes the most of fresh, local seasonal produce and provides a warm feeling on our ever cooling nights."

To try the gingko nuts and taste Helen's creation, visit 50-50 at 22 Maclean St within the next three weeks while the gingko tree is in season.