Spotlight on Golden Ginkgo leaf alongside street: Is ginkgo fruit edible or not?

Oct 20, 2023

some pices of ginkgo biloba leaf fly in air

Do you like Golden Street? Golden sky and golden street, your eyes are full of golden color. Sometimes, they dance in the air. The golden ginkgo biloba is a spotlight of Autumn. At this time, the ginkgo fruit is ripe. Is ginkgo fruit edible or not?

Why is a ripe Ginkgo fruit stinky?

Ginkgo fruit, so-called Baiguo. Same as Cycads plants, the ginkgo tree is a dioecism gymnosperm (i.e., plants whose seeds are not covered by fruit flesh). so it does not produce fruit.  What we eat as "white fruit" is actually its seed. A significant amount of ginkgolide acid (a general term for bilobalide and ginkgolide) is contained in the white fruit, which can reach 200mg/kg. This substance has clear allergenicity, cytotoxicity, and immunotoxicity.

After maturing, the white fruit not only changes color but also emits a stinky smell. This is because the outer fruit skin of the white fruit contains rich fatty acids, which produce special chemical reactions after decay.

two range of ginkgo tree along the street 

This stinky smell is generally hard for people to accept, but it is a "secret weapon" that attracts animals. The smell, which is a mixture of butyric acid, hexanoic acid, methyl butyrate, and methyl hexanoate, is somewhat similar to the special stinky smell produced by bananas during long-distance transportation. They are all odorous organic acids produced by the decomposition of fatty acids.

Although the smell of white fruit is pungent, it is nutritious. 100 grams of dried Ginkgo Biloba seeds, it contains 68 grams of starch, 13 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fat. Therefore, white fruit is also a favorite food of animals such as red squirrels, gray squirrels, and civets.

Ginkgo nuts are toxic, is it safe to consume them? How can we reduce the risk of poisoning when consuming them?

From a safety perspective, the fruit of ginkgo presents significant risks as it contains a variety of highly potent toxins that can cause poisoning.

For example, these include trace amounts of cyanide compounds which are generally present in the form of cyanogenic glycosides. If you consume a large amount of ginkgo fruit, there may be a risk of cyanide poisoning. Other compounds, such as ginkgolide acid and various ginkgolide phenolic substances, collectively called ginkgo acids, can also pose risks due to their allergenic, cytotoxic, and immunotoxic properties.

 many ginkgo seed with ginkgo leaves

For instance, during the harvesting of ginkgo fruit, the skin may come into direct contact with the juice of the fruit. This juice can permeate the skin and cause allergic reactions which can affect organs and tissues throughout the body. Mild reactions can lead to symptoms such as rashes, swelling, blisters, and erosion. In severe cases, it can cause respiratory distress, pulmonary edema, and allergic shock. Therefore, it is essential to exercise caution when handling and consuming ginkgo fruit.

In addition, the ginkgo fruit also contains biological alkaloids such as ginkgol, which are toxic. These alkaloids can act synergistically with cyanide to increase the toxicity, and excessive consumption can increase the risk of poisoning.

Raw ginkgo fruit has a very astringent and not-so-pleasant texture. Therefore, unless you are really fond of its taste, there might be no need to consume it merely due to its perceived nutritional value. Moreover, ginkgo trees along roadsides or in parks can absorb car exhaust fumes and are frequently treated with insecticides by landscapers. Therefore, it is not advisable to consume ginkgo fruits picked from these trees.

If consuming the ginkgo nut isn't safe, would it be fine to use ginkgo leaves to brew tea instead?

Some people enjoy brewing ginkgo biloba leaves in water, believing that the flavonoids they contain can promote health and wellness.

However, the research surrounding the health benefits of flavonoids is still in its early stages. Moreover, around 95% of the flavonoids that are ingested will not be absorbed by the body. Both ginkgo biloba leaves and fruits contain a toxic substance called ginkgo toxin. Ingesting it in any form could significantly increase the risk of poisoning.

Lastly, in order to avoid poisoning from consuming ginkgo nuts, please pay attention to the following three points:

· Do not eat raw ginkgo nuts, and definitely do not eat ginkgo nuts picked from trees on the street!

· Ginkgo nuts should only be purchased through legitimate channels and thoroughly cooked before consumption.

· The green embryo found in the flesh of the ginkgo nut often contains stronger levels of toxins, so it is best to remove the green embryo when eating.

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