The nut-like gametophytes inside the seeds are particularly esteemed in Asia, and are a traditional Chinese food. Ginkgo nuts are used in congee, and are often served at special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha's delight). In Chinese culture, they are believed to have health benefits; some also consider them to have aphrodisiac qualities. Japanese cooks add Ginkgo seeds to dishes such as chawanmushi, and cooked seeds are often eaten along with other dishes.
When eaten by children in large quantities (over 5 seeds a day) or over a long period, the raw gametophyte (meat) of the seed can cause poisoning by MPN (4-methoxypyridoxine). Studies have demonstrated that convulsions caused by MPN can be prevented or terminated with pyridoxine.
Some people are sensitive to the chemicals in the sarcotesta, the outer fleshy coating. These people should handle the seeds with care when preparing the seeds for consumption, wearing disposable gloves. The symptoms are dermatitis or blisters similar to that caused by contact with poison ivy. However, seeds with the fleshy coating removed are perfectly safe to handle.