14 Aug 2010

Commercial trial of gingko nut in Bay of Plenty

2:38 pm on 14 August 2010

Commercial production is being trialled in Bay of Plenty of gingko - an ancient type of nut, which is a food delicacy in Asia.

Graham and Mavis Dyer, who have an orchard in the lower Kaimai Ranges, have planted 2000 gingko trees.

Gingko is one of the earth's oldest surviving tree varieties and its longevity can be partly attributed to the naturally-occurring toxic compounds it produces.

While there are number of growers around the country that harvest the tree's leaves in its juvenile state for herbal medicines, none harvest its fruit, or the nuts inside the fruit.

The fruit itself is very smelly and toxic, but the nuts are a delicacy in Japan, China and other parts of South-East Asia where they can fetch up to $100 per kg.

Mrs Dyer says their trees are expected to start producing nuts within the next two years, with a harvest of 20,000 tonnes.

In the meantime, the couple have been using a TechNZ grant from the Foundation for Research, Science & Technology, to investigate potential export markets and carry out storage trials.

Mrs Dyer says they want to be able to store the nuts so they can release them into the market at the right time to get a premium price.

The have also applied to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority to import gingko nuts from Japan to carry out further storage tests.

The gingko nut industry is regarded as a cottage industry in Japan and the Dyers expect they will soon be one of the largest growers in the world.