Sidewalk Nature: Ginkgo Fruit


Fall is here, and stuff is falling. Look down. Although this site is called Look Around, sometimes and to some people, to look around is too tall an order. So look down. It’s easier. Down is just past the margins of our smartphones. And down is the quickest place to see signs of the seasons.

Welcome to Sidewalk Nature. Today’s nature is ginkgo “fruit.”*

Where the sidewalk stinks

Landscapers don’t plant female ginkgo trees on purpose, especially over a public sidewalk between a hospital and a medical gym, but landscapers planted this one, and every autumn it drops puke-bombs, vomit grenades, dog-poo-berries: a.k.a. ginkgo fruit. I’ve been collecting them again.

collected in a dog-poo bag
collected in a dog-poop bag

Stinko ginkgo fruit smells horrible, but the inside kernel is edible when cooked, and in small batches, nutritious.  In large batches, it might poison you. The stinky outer pulp can trigger poison ivy-type rashes, so tread carefully.

I keep hoping to see other foragers, but so far I’m it. I’d love to talk shop and learn the best ways to prepare the seeds: especially the traditional Chinese methods.

Empty skin and unwashed kernels. Note disposable plates.
Empty skin and unwashed kernels. Note disposable plates. Note all this is outside and not in my kitchen.

I’m experimenting in the kitchen. This time, one of my boiled batches was actually quite good. The surprise was that they ended up with the look and feel of green jelly beans.

Ginkgo biloba. Bi-lobed: two lobes to the gorgeous leaves, which will soon be turning gold and hitting the sidewalk. Wrote about that last year here, at Gingko Leaf Surrender.


Is there a ginkgo tree near you? I hope it’s a rogue female, dropping fruit. If so, search near the trunk to see if any baby ginkgos have already sprouted in the mulch or groundcover. They’ll be poking up from their wizened sack in the manner of white oak babies from acorns: just sprouting right out of the blob in plain view. You may be able to gently pull one up by the roots and plant it in a pot (or the ground) at home. I did. And if you want to sprout your own, just put a fruit atop a pot of soil and wait.

But don’t leave it near a mouse highway. I wrote about this last year, too, when I left ginkgo on the kitchen counter overnight. In the morning I discovered that ginkgo flesh is instant mouse laxative. See If You Give A Mouse a Ginkgo Fruit for proof.

*Not technically a fruit, since ginkgo is a gymnosperm, but to type and to say the botanically correct “fleshy seed coat” or “sarcostesta” is cumbersome.

4 thoughts on “Sidewalk Nature: Ginkgo Fruit

  1. Nice post! Here in DC, these trees are HATED, but I do so seem occasional foraging attempts. Personally, I have a hair-trigger gag reflex and sensitive nose, so I skip the blocks where I know a female Ginkgo is located.

  2. The senior residence where my mom lives has non-fruit bearing gingko trees! She is an artist and is using them to make stencils for birthday cards (along with other leaves from other trees). I’ll share this with her.

Comments are closed.