For some years, each autumn, I have trudged through putrifying Ginkgo fruits, fallen amongst fossilesque golden Ginkgo leaves, on Albrecht Durerstraat in Oud Zuid, Amsterdam. It is where I work and is a street that the local council chose to line with this amazing tree herb, many moons ago.
Ginkgo biloba is a fascinating plant. Often known as the Maidenhair tree or the living fossil tree, it is incredibly resilient to damage and pollution and is well suited to the urban environment. It has been long revered by traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine and apparently has many uses, particularly for the circulatory system. This is apparently the most adulterated herbal extract that people buy. Most people seem to take the extract to improve their circulation, for cold hands and feet for instance and to boost their memory. Be aware that there is much conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of Ginkgo for memory loss and demetia. As ever, treat all claims with caution and if trying something new, be very cautious. Here’s a summary of the current research.
This lunchtime I was joined by 5 adults and two snuggly wrapped babies, to harvest some Ginkgo nuts which have dropped onto parked cars and the pavement. The flesh (sarcotesta) around the nuts is HIGHLY TOXIC, containing the same chemical as poison ivy. Anyone wishing to harvest, should avoid touching it. The chemical causes a very serious skin reaction and requires prompt hospital treatment. Likewise, because Ginkgo acts as an anticoagulant, if you are already taking drugs which act to “thin the blood”, you should avoid the herb and consult your doctor for advice, if you really think it could be of benefit to you. If you are allergic to aspirin or nuts, this is also a herb to avoid.
Please follow the instructions in this link if you want to know how to prepare the nuts. Note the rubber gloves and photo of blistered eyes, on that website!
By removing these smelly fruits from the pavement we are sparing the local residents from some nasal pollution and are harnessing an urban resource that people in some other countries would be very envious of.
So if you want to join me and a few others on Friday at 12:35 or on Tuesday at 12:45, please come equipt with a pair of rubber gloves, a couple of sturdy plastic bags and perhaps a spoon or chopsticks, to pick up the fruit. Much of the current harvest has already been swept into the gutter but this is still fair game for the well prepared forager! We’ll be meeting outside of the AKO newsagent, on the corner of Beethovenstraat and Gerrit van der Veenstraat (trams 24 & 5). I’ll be wearing my yellow raincoat and rubber gloves 🙂
5 thoughts on “Ginkgo Harvesting in Amsterdam”
Our newly planted out gingko is just leafing up. I find it interesting that gingko tends to be lumped in with conifers even though it is very distinct thanks to it being the only member of its genus. We grew lots of them from seed that we sourced in town. They are incredibly hardy trees and well able to tolerate pollution, salt spray and long periods of extended drought. Many female street trees are being culled to stop the smelly fruit from becoming a “problem” but thats a major shame because without these fruits the seed isn’t available for those of us so inclined to wade through that stinky toxic pulp to attempt to grow or to eat. Cheers for a most interesting post. I linked my last post to your blog to share your weedy edibles with my readers 🙂
Hi Fran, as ever, thanks for your comments! We had a lot of fun harvesting the smelly fruit. I’d love to get a big group together to harvest heaps of these every year then hopefully we can encourage replanting of the female ginkgo and stop culling. Such a pity! How did you get your seeds to grow? Any special treatment required?
Nice post! I’d love to join on Tuesday, but I have to go to class at 13 o clock… I assume earlier picking wouldn’t work out? I’ll be checking it out by myself if I can though. There are some trees in the Javastreet and one near the police station on the Linneausstreet, but Im not sure if they are female. You might know. If you’re not sure, Ill go check them out. Greetz!
I could also come out of work for a quick break at about 10.10 on Tuesday. If you can make it come to the Plein in front of the British School off Quentin Massijstraat / Albrecht Durerstraat. Would that be any good? I may post info about it on Freecycle at the weekend as I just can’t believe that they will mostly go to waste in the gutters.