Over 150 million years old, maidenhair trees are one of the oldest types of trees on Earth. They’re also called ginkgo trees, and on them grows a curious little nut called the ginkgo nut.
The fruit covering these nuts tends to smell rather unpleasant, and once you free the nut of the fruit, it still has a closed shell surrounding it. One then has to cook the nuts — typically either by boiling or roasting — and the shell will pop open, revealing tasty flesh that can be yellow or green. Unlike most nuts, the color is shiny, almost translucent, although the exact look can differ based on the nut and how it was cooked.
Culinarily, these are most commonly used in Chinese or Japanese cuisine; they’re popular roasted, salted, and skewered as an izakaya snack in Japan, and in China are common on New Year celebrations. Otherwise, they’re frequently used as toppings or in other dishes such as on congee.
Uwajimaya carries ginkgo nuts fresh, which you can find in the produce department.