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Ginkgo Trees

Through our new virtual programming series, Nature in your Neighborhood, we challenged volunteers to go out into their neighborhoods or backyards to see what plants sparked their interest. Whether plants are native or non native, we can all appreciate a connection to nature and the curiosity that it can spark!

By: Cindy Chou

I’ve been living in the same house for 9 years, and ever since we first moved here, there were 3 ginkgo trees in the front garden. Even now, my ginkgo trees look the exact same; they have a light brown tree trunk, green fan-shaped leaves which turn bright yellow during the fall, and skinny branches covered with these wrinkly orange spheres. Although I initially thought they were ordinary trees with beautiful leaves that turned translucent under the sunlight, I soon realized that every fall, these 3 ginkgo trees would transform a stink bomb. The scent is hard to describe, but if I had to compare it with something, I would say the fallen ginkgo fruits smell like rotten eggs that were stepped on.

Surprisingly, you can actually eat these fruits! Once you wash away the stinky scent by scrubbing at it and peel away the shell, you can see the translucent jade green color of the fruit. I remember it tasting pretty flavorless, but many others think it resembles pine nuts, chestnuts, and even potatoes. This tree also comes with a bit of history. It is a living fossil, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago. (Fun fact: They can live for 3,000 years!) They can grow in many temperatures and are suited for urban areas as well as farm lands.


Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

- 8 oz unpeeled ginkgo nuts

- ½ cup pearled barley

- 1 cup candied winter melon

- 7 cups water

- 1 dried beancurd sheet


1. Peel ginkgo nuts and remove piths. Wash and drain gingko nuts and


2. Combine ginkgo nuts, pearled barley, candied winter melon, and water in a pot. Boil for 1 hour.

3. Cut tofu and soak in water. Drain.

4. After 1 hour add beancurd and coil for 15 minutes


Ginkgo nuts contain B-complex groups of vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folates. Traditionally, these nuts were believed to be effective against asthma, bronchitis, and urinary tract ailments. However, Ginkgo nuts have also caused Ginkgotoxin poisoning with symptoms including stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, nervous irritability, convulsion, and sometimes death.

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