Can You Eat Hedge Apples?

by Charlie

Also known as Osage orange or horse apple, the hedge apples grow from a small deciduous tree or a large shrub that grows to 30-50 feet tall. The hedge apple is roughly spherical, bumpy, 8 to 15 centimeters in diameter, which turns bright yellow-green in the fall. It secretes a sticky white latex when cut or destroyed. 

It is a Moraceae, a member of the mulberry family from the Plantae kingdom. You are likely to come across these beautiful and attractive fruits and ask yourself, can you eat hedge apple? Unfortunately, no you cannot eat hedge apples due to its sticky latex secretions and woody pulp, it is not suitable for consumption by humans.

However, animals like squirrels and chipmunks can eat these fruits. Animals such as cattle are likely to die if they eat them. It can be caused by settling in the esophagus due to their large size and thick skin, which will chock the animal and claim their lives.  

Where Did Hedge Apples Originate?

Hedge apples come from a deciduous tree known as Osage orange (Maclura pomifera). Other names given to the hedge apple tree are:

  1. Bodak 
  2. Bow-wood
  3. Horse apple and
  4. Hedge 

During your stroll to the grocery store, you might have come across the hedge apples and start wondering, where did the hedge apple originate? The Osage tree came from the southwest in the drainage area of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. It was well known for its wood by the Osage nation of Native Americans and the Cherokee. They used the wood to produce bows for hunting, which some years later, they were worth more than a horse and blanket. 

As it became more accepted, it became of value to the Midwest farmers and ranchers. They used it to make living fences due to its sharp thorns, thus named hedgerows. Its importance increased for its ability to repel insects and resist moisture, thus creating valuable fence posts better than today’s fence posts.

The American settlers also used the trees as a hedge to keep away free-range animals from their gardens and cornfields. During their growth, the hedge apple trees were severely pruned and sprouted numerous adventitious shoots that were interwoven. They, therefore, formed a dense thorny barrier hedge. This type of fence became known and commonly used throughout the United States until barbwire’s invention superseded it.

What are the Uses of Hedge Apple?

You might have come across some hedge apples and come to find out it is not a good idea to eat them. Hence the question, what are the uses of hedge apple? Despite their unpalatable nature, there are several other uses you can explore. Also, the trees and leaves of the hedge apple can be useful as well. Such uses include:

  1. A Good Source of Firewood

The hedge tree is not your typical tree since it has deep, strong roots covered with bright orange bark. There are cases where bulldozer operators say it is harder to knock down a hedge tree than an oak. The wood is hard and tough on chainsaws. However, when the wood has dried out, it burns hot than any other wood. 

  1. Used as Food for Squirrels and Chipmunks

The hedge apples are unpalatable for humans and animals since they are heavy with a  wrinkled or bumpy surface with a yellow-green color during the fall. The fruit produces a sticky latex secretion when cut, which irritates the skin. It also emits an orange flavor from which the tree derives its name, Osage orange.

Squirrels and chipmunks do not shy from their form, thus tearing through them to eat the inner seeds. Cattle, on the other hand, can choke on them.

  1. Used to Repel Insects

Many insects tend not to like the glossy leaves, branches, or tree bark. It is also the case with the hedge fruit. Chemicals from the hedge apple repel spiders and different species of insects. 

Due to this quality, people in the countryside where they are grown, placed hedge apples under their beds to keep away the spiders. The fruit extract is in several cases said to repel insects as well as other chemically produced repels.

  1. Used to Produce Dye

The Osage-orange wood has a bright orange color when cut. Due to this quality, a bright yellow dye gets extracted easily.

  1. Produces Wood Products

Wood from the hedge tree turns brown when exposed to natural elements. You can use it to create durable and robust furniture, archery bows, and fence posts. Its ability to be rot-resistant makes it best for fence posts. 

Additionally, being robust, flexible, and durable makes it suitable for archery bow making.

  1. Used as Traditional medicine

In history, the Comanche tribe used to infuse the Osage tree roots in water and use the infusion as an eye medicine. 

What are the Steps Used to Make a Hedge-apple Hedge?

In case you want to plant a hedge and wondering what the steps used to make a hedge apple hedge are, you are in luck. You will need a bucket full of hedge apples and a potato masher. Leave the fruits outside during winter so they will be rained on, snowed on, frozen, thawed, and frozen again. 

During the spring thaw, they will be mushy, and you can smash them with the potato masher. Dig a furrow and pour the pulp with the seeds and water, then cover with soil. Wait for the trees to grow, and you have your hedge-apple fence.

Final Thoughts

  • Hedge apples are not suitable for human consumption. Animals like cattle can choke on the fruits hence the need to look out for them in your compound.
  • The origin of hedge apples is the southwest of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, where the trees created a hedge or fence by the Midwest farmers.
  • Osage trees have several uses. When dry, they produce good firewood and produce bright dyes and wood products such as bows and fence posts. The fruit produces chemicals that repel insects and spiders and provides fruits for squirrels and chipmunks.
  • The hedge-apple hedge is simple to plant. A hedge-apple pulp with seeds and water is poured in a stream and covered with soil. They later sprout to create a fence. 

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