When we first came to the US, we were introduced to eating Ginkgo seeds, but at the time, we didn’t know what they were. We used to live near Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and my mom took us there almost every weekend because it was within walking distance from our apartment. There were rows of tall Ginkgo trees, and during the fall season, the leaves turn to a beautiful golden yellow color, the seeds mature and fall on the ground, about the size of your toe and round. We saw several Chinese people picking the fruits from the ground, the outer layer of the fruit was soft and mushy, which you can’t eat, we never tried, mainly because it stinks to high heaven, but the nut part of the seed you could eat. I hated picking those things because they were so stink, it’d leave the smell on your hand for a long time, we didn’t know about surgical gloves back then either.
Later on I discovered that they were Ginkgo seeds, also known as Ginkgo nuts; they are considered a delicacy in China and other Asian countries, strangely, I don’t recall hearing about them in Laos or Thailand. My mom boiled the seed for us, I kind of like eating it, but just not the picking part. You can also roast the seed, and they are frequently used in Oriental sweet and savory dishes, including soup and porridge. Roasted Ginkgo nuts are often served as an accompaniment to poultry, as a digestive aid at formal banquets and at Chinese weddings, as they are thought to bring good luck. They are sold by street vendors in Chinatown, NY, which I didn’t know about until I got older, and I’m sure you can find it in any Chinese cities. The Chinese name for the seed translates as “silver almond.”
Just for my childhood memory sake, I have a Ginkgo tree in my backyard, it’s very small right now, about 5 years old, it takes about 20 years for the tree to mature, and it’s usually stands 60 to 80 feet tall. I recall that the ones at the garden were extremely tall, but not sure if they’re 60 feet or taller. A Ginkgo tree is either female or male, and I only have one, I’m not sure which or how I can tell the gender of my Ginkgo tree.
A little history of the tree, not all gymnosperms are conifers. The well-known ginkgo, with its fan-shaped leaves, lacks cones. Its seeds are encased in a fleshy, malodorous outer coating. The tree, which has been grown in monastery gardens for thousands of years, is no longer found in its native habitat in China. Signs marking the specimen in Ginkgo Triangle tell the story of this tree’s ancestors, which date back to the Triassic period, 225 to 190 million years ago.
As for herbal usage, Ginkgo seeds contain several unique organic compounds, including bilobol, ginkgol, ginnol, and ginkgolic acid. In eastern Asia, the ginkgo seed has been used in traditional medicine for treating a wide variety of ailments, including asthma, coughs, pulmonary tuberculosis, senility, and bladder irritability. Its traditional herbal actions include antimicrobial, anti inflammatory and vasodilatory. The Ginkgo based supplements that are being used against Alzheimer’s, are made by extracting specific beneficial components of the Ginkgo leaf, and discarding the toxic components.
Gingko biloba is a Chinese herb often used as a dietary supplement to treat memory loss, and if you feel like your memory is not all there, wouldn’t hurt to try, as for me, I’ve a good memory, might have been because I ate so much Gingko seeds when I was little.