Harvesting Gingko – A Stinky Job but Someones Gotta Get Nuts


gingko gingko

Gingko biloba is quite a sight, or should I say smell.

When you stumble upon them, youll know. Standing up to 80 feet tall, you may have found a gingko tree in a nearby park or while

Gingko biloba mother tree

Gingko biloba mother tree

walking down the streets of New York City but often times they are all males.  Sadly it is becoming rarer to find the gingko nuts, which ironically come from female trees, because they are often cut down due to people complaining about the smell.  I must admit, the smell is incredibly awful, but after time working with the plant I’ve gotten rather used to it.  If you have found female gingko trees with nuts, that means that someone was kind enough to leave a male and female to make babies, which are little gingko nuts.  During the fall, a healthy gingko mother over 30 years old will drop its fruits all over the ground or sidewalk which then get stepped on by passersby to release its rich hearty…disturbing aroma.

You may ask then, why would someone want to spend their time collecting it?  Well, because it is an ancient past time going back to who knows how long.  If they were around during the time of the dinosaurs that means our caveman (and woman) ancestors were collecting them and receiving all of the incredible medicinal benefits of the leaves and nuts; our DNA is full of Ginkgo genes!  And if you can get past the smell, it’s just plain fun!  I have a pretty good process of harvesting them that I will share in this blog.

But first….

Gingko History:

The gingko tree is the oldest living tree still existing on Earth.  When you come upon a tree think about how dinosaurs were eating the leaves over 200 million years ago.  For centuries the gingko tree has been viewed as sacred to Chinese and Japanese Buddhists who live a life of memorizing texts and mantras.  It is also tradition in Asia to keep a ginkgo bonsai tree.

The Gingko tree was at one point thought to have gone extinct during the ice age and was actually rediscovered in the 1700s in a Buddhist monastery in China where they were carefully tending to them.  From there the beautiful prehistoric “living fossil” has again spread all around the world as an ornamental tree in cities and suburbs due to its resistance to insects, disease and its ability to filter air pollution.  According to traditions, some Gingko trees are said to be 1000 years old.  They are so mighty that there is even a story that the only tree to survive the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima was one solitary Gingko tree which sprouted back months later from a charred and seemingly dead trunk.  Now that is virility and stamina!  With all this being true can you imagine what it does for us?

Gingko nuts encased in the fruits

The Nuts:

Gingko Nuts are a pistachio shaped nut encased in the smelliest fruit you will ever experience. The fruit actually contains urushiol, which is the allergen in poison ivy that gives the common rash. Some will suggest to collect with gloves; I collect and by hand and never have had a problem. They are a prized food in Asia, particularly in Japan, and make a delicious addition to any rice dishes or stir fry’s.  Along with being tasty (after processing), Gingko nuts are very high in protein.  They also have medicinal benefits to the body, mind, and spirit including dilating blood vessels and increasing oxygen into the blood stream which relieves stress and hypertension (high blood pressure).  They are also reported to be antimicrobial and you will notice that they are resistant to bugs in the atmosphere and internally help flush bugs (from virus to parasites) out of us. They are also reported to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is good for all pain, soreness, and stresses.  In Asia, the seeds have also been reportedly used for asthma, coughs, pulmonary tuberculosis, senility, bladder irritability, and to aid digestion.

You will find the ripened fruits smashed all over the ground in the fall (especially in cities) and you don’t have to bother taking them from the tree.  The generous Gingko will drop them, as well as the leaves, when they are ripe and when she is ready and there will be more than enough to collect right off of the ground.

In order to eat gingko nuts they must be roasted in the oven on 275 degrees, or boiled, for 25 minutes, as they are toxic raw.  When they are done you can easily crack the shells off with your teeth or a nutcracker.  They taste like a sweet and savory bean.  It is best to freeze them after you have finished roasting them to extend their shelf life if you have extra to store.  It is important to note that some people have also reportedly become sick after eating more than 10-12 nuts in one sitting, after cooking.  So if you were to get dizzy or a headache when eating them that would be a good time to stop!

The Leaves:

Brain-shaped gingko leaves

If we observe the Gingko leaves according to the doctrine of signatures, which is an ancient way of perceiving the energy of the plant intuitively, it will help us use our perception to extract many ways that the plant works on us.  It is important to recognize that what the plant does for the inside of our bodies is also what it has been doing for the body of the earth long before we came onto the scene.  Being that the tree is so ancient, disease resistant and hardy, shows us what will be strengthened in our bodies.  Also note that the fan-shaped leaves look like a brain and indeed they are an excellent brain tonic.  The fact that gingko was being eaten by dinosaurs, as well as it being a great cleanser of smog in cities, is an indication of an incredibly vast spectrum of virility and strength.  These properties, according to the doctrine of signatures, would suggest long life, increased memory recall, and deep healing and wisdom of how to adapt through the ages, which just so happens to be the scientifically backed research about it.

Gingko biloba leaf extract is one of the most clinically tested plants and it repeatedly has clear results in reversing early stage Alzheimer’s and dementia.  It is great for helping us with increasing memory and retain-ability, as well as increasing circulation to the limbs and the brain. The leaf extract has also been found to stimulate the immune system, and help clear bad plaque out of the arteries, protecting against heart disease.  The extracts are also used for headaches, asthma, tinnitus, kidney disorders, depression, bleeding, bruising, and edema.  It is a potent free radical destroyer and therefore helps fight against cancer cells.  All of these factors stem directly or indirectly to its power to increase your blood flow which also increases vigor, stamina, and energy.  A virtual health miracle!

Notice I said “leaf extract”?  Unfortunately there is some sketchiness about drinking tea from our own collected gingko leaves. I have asked many herbalists, and according to Robin Rose Bennett and the wise woman tradition they have suggested to work with the yellow leaves.  Yet as the debate holds, Ginkgo leaves contain toxic substances which are removed during the process of preparing the standardized extract.  Unfortunately this is one that unless you have a science wizard in the house you might want to go purchase at the store.  Make sure the extract says that the gingkolic acid is removed.

Don’t take gingko extract if you are prone to seizures, or taking any other prescription medication as it can counteract and cause side effects.  There are only isolated cases of sporadic side effects, but in some cases they are severe.

And now time to get nuts…



After they are cleaned and dried, you can roast, bake, or boil them and enjoy, or freeze them for a later time…

Happy Foraging!

Any questions, feedback, or concerns about taking Gingko you can email Dan@returntonature.us


Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

Foraging Videos: Click Here

Share Button



About Dan

Dan De Lion is an earth herbalist, forager, musician, and teacher. He teaches through Return to Nature, providing classes, lectures, and seminars on wild food foraging, mushroom identification, herbal medicine making, as well as primitive and survival skills with a focus on wild foods and forest medicines. He also incorporates the philosophies of yoga, alchemy, meditation, and mysticism into his classes, lectures, and seminars and brings a deep rooted indigenous medicine perspective of practicing intuition with plants, in a systematic and earth-based way – Check out more at www.returntonature.us.
This entry was posted in Blog, Wild Food and Medicine Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Harvesting Gingko – A Stinky Job but Someones Gotta Get Nuts

  1. kim says:

    thank you for the good info. about gingko very well done….peace to you Kim

  2. Julia says:

    Thank you kindly for the information. I will be harvesting tomorrow from my neighbors tree 🙂 Namaste!

  3. melissa says:

    i just found a ginko tree with TONS of fruit in my neighborhood… as i do a google search to find out the medicinal uses and what to do with these stinky fruits your familiar face pops up! thanks for this article dan! see you next weekend!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the info! I am currently in Thailand and had a dish with these nuts in them and thought they were awesome. Tried to find out what they were and found your site. I have a question….can I find them in stores when I get back to the States? If so, where??


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *