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 🙂