Getting Creative with Fall Foraging: Crabapples and Gingko Nuts and Leaves

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If you’ve walked around the streets of Philadelphia in the fall, you’ve likely seen the gorgeous foliage and decor of crabapple and gingko trees. Although these trees are popular in urban landscapes and beyond, they are oft-overlooked as sources of foraged food. During this fall season, we encourage you to get creative and harvest these special plants – with a little bit of practice (and some helpful information — see below!), crabapples and gingko nuts can become pantry staples.

Crabapples

Crabapples are classified as any apples with a diameter less than 2 inches, representing a wide range of Malus species native to North America, Asia, and Europe. Crabapple trees are small deciduous trees that flower prolifically in spring and produce abundant fruit in the fall.  Look around and they are easy to spot on many tree-lined streets of Philadelphia. Most common crabapple cultivars are selected for their ornamental qualities, but there are some known for their relatively larger, distinguished, flavorful and pleasant fruit (see list of good edible crabapple varieties here).  Crabapples boast similar nutritional value to their non-crabby counterparts, with noted amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants. Although the fruit is often small and sour, its culinary uses are many!

In the kitchen, crabapples can be featured similarly to larger and sweeter apples in baked goods, jams, jellies, juices, syrups, butters, purees, and fruit leathers. Crabapple jelly is a POP favorite! Check out a recipe card for you to use at home from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension and more easy-to-make recipes from UAFCE here. For a hands-on demo, join us November 11 from 12-2pm at Greensgrow Community Kitchen for a jam and jelly making workshop with Chef Gail Hinson! 

Gingko Nuts and Leaves

Ginkgo biloba trees are one of the oldest plants on earth, so old that they are considered ancient living fossils that have “remained essentially unchanged since [their] debut 180 million years ago.” The ginkgo tree was introduced in North America through Philadelphia from England; it was originally – and still is – championed as a fantastic ornamental landscape tree.  The very first Ginkgo tree in North America was planted by William Hamilton at his estate at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia, where the office of the Philadelphia Orchard Project is now located! 

Photo credit: Serious Eats

Before consuming ginkgo nuts, please read POP’s edible plant disclaimer at the end of the article.

With careful preparation, ginkgo seeds can be snacked on and ginkgo leaves can be used for tea. Because of the chemical compounds in ginkgo fruit including urushiol the active irritating chemical in poison ivy, the seeds require special cleaning and processing. If you get close enough to take a whiff, you’ll notice the cheesy smell of ginkgo’s female fruit – a fair warning of its potential poisonous qualities. When harvesting and processing ginkgo for seeds, wear gloves and take caution. You’ll remove the seeds from the fruit and then process by boiling, pan roasting, or frying in a skillet.

After processing, it is best to limit your intake of ginkgo seeds to every other day.  Children should always limit their consumption to no more than 5 ginkgo seeds in a day.   Consuming too many gingko nuts can make you feel ill and possibly interfere with vitamin B6 absorption due to the natural presence of 4-methoxypyridoxine. 

So, noting all of that, you may ask, why is it worth it? For many reasons! Ginkgo seeds can be flavorful and tender, they are a staple of specific Asian soups, and they’re plentiful! If you’re interested in trying it out, we recommend the following resources for more information:

Ginkgo Seed Collection & Preparation, written by Dr. Coder at the University of Virginia How to identify, harvest and prepare Ginkgo biloba for brain health and this great guide by wildfood forager Green Deane. 

Wishing you an abundant and joyful harvest!

This POP Plant Feature was written by POP 2017 Outreach & Education intern Amy Jean Jacobs. 

Disclaimer

The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused.

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.

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