Why you should grow Ginkgo Biloba
I don’t know many people who grow a Ginkgo in their kitchen garden but they are easy to recognise when you are out and about. The leaf shape is like a fan and from a lime green colour will turn an extraordinarily vibrant yellow in autumn. Apart from the size they grow to, I often wonder why we don’t grow them much in our gardens because they are incredibly easy to grow and used medicinally as well. I’ve had a small Ginkgo in a container for many years and it never fails to make me smile as the leaves develop and grow into fans and change colour. Ginkgo trees have been considered a symbol of peace, hope and longevity. Some have lived through an atomic bomb, others were eaten by dinosaurs, it was nearly extinct until about 1,000 years ago and it is now a true living fossil. Used in herbal medicines, Ginkgo seeds have been used as oil for heating, to treat cavities, breathing issues, coughs, bladder infections and much more. It is said to improve vitality. Extract from the leaves has been used to help blood flow, focus and memory. But do use with great caution and do your research before trying Ginkgo in any way as there are many contraindications.
How to grow a Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo is a deciduous tree, native to China, that grows well in a container or in the ground as long as it is in full sun and well drained soil. Otherwise, it’s not fussy about soil type, aspect or much else. It can grow pretty tall and wide so you’ll need lots of space, unless you grow in a container and therefore keep it to a manageable size. However, it will take a really long time to reach it’s maximum height and spread - in some cases up to 50 years - and pruning isn’t even necessary.
Female Ginkgo bears an inedible ‘fruit’ after about 30 years and the seed inside is edible but it’s unlikely you’ll get past the smell because they are really horrendous! I personally wouldn’t even touch them and stick to enjoying the leaves on the trees and a few for this sweet recipe. Just gently pull a leaf with the stem and lay flat on a tray so they don’t break. As the leaves fall, any that aren’t damaged can be collected up and used for this as well.
Since Ginkgo can grow so big, why not try a dwarf variety in a container like mine.
Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ only grows about 10 cm per year up to 2m tall but will still provide you with all the spectacular leaf shape and colours as a large specimen would.
For more info and a surprisingly good Ginkgo recipe, check out my wellbeing column in the August copy of Grow Your Own Magazine.