Boris Cherny's Blog

Dinosaur Food: 100 million year old foods we still eat today

January 17, 2022

I just finished Oliver Sacks’ excellent Everything in Its Place. In it, he mentioned as an aside that the Ginkgo biloba tree is hundreds of millions of years old, and its phenotype has been practically frozen since then – a living fossil.

Of course, this is the same tree that grows ぎんなん (Ginkgo nuts), an East Asian delicacy found in many dishes, 茶碗蒸し (Chawanmushi) for example.

Ginkgo has been around so long, it predates the dinosaurs! And we still eat it! How cool is that. This got me thinking – what are the oldest foods we consume today?


  1. Must be edible by humans
  2. Must be morphologically unchanged since its fossil age
Photo Kingdom Species Common name Age (years)
Animalia Tachypleus tridentatus Horseshoe crab 480M
Plantae Ginkgo biloba Maidenhair nuts 290M
Plantae Bryoria fremontii Wila 250M?
Plantae Cladonia rangiferina Reindeer lichen 250M?
Plantae Cycas revoluta Sago palm 200M
Plantae Araucaria araucana Monkey puzzle tree nuts 160M
Plantae Equisetum arvense Horsetail 140M
Plantae Welwitschia - 112M
Plantae Osmundastrum cinnamomeum Cinnamon fern 70M
Plantae Trapa natans Water caltrop nuts 66M
Plantae Nelumbo lutea, Nelumbo nucifera Lotus 65M+

Note: I’m a hobbyist, and not a paleobotanist. Additions and edits are welcome, if I misclassified or missed anything.