ST. LOUIS – As autumn approaches, hedge apples make their presence known. But what exactly is the purpose of these intriguing fruits? Contrary to the belief that they repel all spiders or roaches, hedge apples have a different historical role. These peculiar fruits have endured through time, even during the ice age, when prehistoric animals consumed them.
Hedge apples are most renowned for their role in creating decorative pieces and the use of their wood for crafting natural boundary fences. Familiarly known as horse apples, monkey balls, Bois d’Arc, and Osage orange, these fruits hold a rich array of names.
Can we eat them?
While they have a rich array of names, the fruit does not taste so rich. They are actually bitter, and most people would consider them unpalatable, but you can eat them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, the fleshy fruit is about 80 percent digestible.
Also, be cautious when handling hedge apples, as the milky juice found in the stems and fruit may cause skin irritation.
Under the textured exterior, the flesh appears compact and ranges from creamy white to a soft pale green. Within, you’ll find 200 to 300 elongated, light brown seeds. They are the most edible part of the fruit.
A family tried these seeds and documented the experience on YouTube. The children described the seeds as “tasting like pine cones,” while the mother informed the audience that it took them an hour to extract seeds from one half of the fruit.
What are some uses of the fruit?
Due to the strength of the trees, the wood was used to build wagon wheel rims, mine support timbers, and other items.
Native Americans prized the tree for its use in making long bows and other war weapons.
The Osage were the primary population in the Mississippi Basin and used the wood to make bows. The tribe was famous for making and using the Osage Longbow, which was often traded with other tribes.
Although it is now popular to use hedge apples to repel insects and mice, this old wives’ tale appears to be folklore. There is no scientific evidence that hedge apples are efficient insect repellents.
Hedge apples will not keep insects away from your home. People assume that the oils from the fruit keep bugs away.