Gingko Harvest Guide
Don’t be turned off by the not-so-nice scent of this superfood! Gingko nuts have been enjoyed for centuries and boast a long list of supposed health benefits. They have been said to support prevention of chronic diseases, promote wellness, strengthen the immune system and even improve brain function! Harvesting these seeds may be labour intensive, but the flavour and texture, similar to edamame, are surely worth it!
What they look like:
The most revealing characteristic of a gingko tree is the unique, green, fan-shaped leaf. The gingko seeds resemble fruit, as the seed coating is about the size of a ping-pong ball and fleshy. They have a shape similar to a plum and grow in a pale green colour before they mature into a yellow or orange colour.
Once the fleshy exterior is removed, you are left with a hard, light-coloured round or egg-shaped seed with a ridge around the seam.
When they’re ready:
Late summer to early fall, often around the same time that the leaves begin to change colour.
When to contact Not Far From The Tree to schedule a pick:
We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a fruit pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good time to do this is when the seeds have just lost their greenish hue, but before they have started falling off the tree in great numbers.
You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when…
The seed coating has changed colour from a pale green to a more yellow/orange colour and begins to give off a strong and foul odour. When gingko seeds are ripe they will begin falling off the tree, and the ones that remain on the tree should be easy to gently tug off. Since the edible portion of the gingko seed is contained within two layers of seed coating, it is OK to eat the windfall (seeds that have fallen onto the ground) as long as they haven’t been partially eaten by animals.
Great care must be taken when dealing with gingko seeds because they have certain toxic properties. Touching the seeds with bare skin may cause a rash as the coating contains urushiol, the same chemical that causes allergic reactions in poison ivy, poison oak and sumac. The best way to minimize skin contact with the seeds is to always wear gloves when harvesting off the tree or ground. Otherwise, gingko are picked much like any fruit; gently pull them from the branch using your gloved hand or a picking pole. It may not be a good idea to climb a gingko tree because of the increased risk of contact between your skin and the fruit.
As soon as the seeds come off the tree, it is a good idea to remove the fleshy, odorous, toxic outer coating. Soaking the seeds in water will help the coating come off the seed easily (remember to wear gloves!). Wash and dry the seeds, and discard the coating. As soon as the coating is gone, the seeds will no longer smell or cause irritation to the skin. Dried seeds can be stored in the freezer for long periods of time.
It is important to note that gingko nuts cannot be eaten raw as they are mildly toxic. Boil, bake, roast or fry them before consumption. Peel or crack the shell off the nut and eat the bright green kernel inside. Depending on cooking method, this delicious seed will be similar to edamame in taste and texture. The recommended limit for gingko nuts is around 8-10 per day for an adult; excessive consumption can lead to food poisoning.
Check out our Fruit Guide for harvesting details for other local edibles.