Wondering what is the bumpy green fruit growing out of your hedge? It may be a hedge apple. A fruit that is seen more on house fences than on local markets.
Ask the vendors or gardeners you know if you can you eat hedge apples and you will get varied answers.
Let us discuss what are hedge apples and Is the Hedge Apple also known as "Osage Orange" edible?
What are hedge apples?
As with its name, the plant is commonly used as a hedge. Due to its high survivability rate with poor soil and weather conditions, the plants require low maintenance making it a good natural fence.
Aside from being a durable plant, its wood is sturdy and, opposite to the fruit, has a nice exterior. According to the US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services fact sheet on the fruit, hedge apple plant was told to be the “best fencing material available” according to Illinois College Biology instructor Professor Jonathan and Prairie Farmer editor John Wright back in the 80s.
While also being called an Osage orange, hedge apples only have a distant relationship to the orange fruit family but is actually a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae. It is a small green fruit that has a ridge-like exterior similar to a rolled-up crumpled paper.
The hedge apple or maclura pomifera is a conversation-starter online due to its alleged insect-repelling capability.
are hedge apples edible?
Straighter answer is, hedge apples, also known as osage oranges are inedible. horse apple is inedible not because of its ugly taste and appearance but because of the latex the fruit secrets that can irritate the human skin. Anything that can harm the outside of the human body can hurt the inside too.
The seeds can be eaten but requires at least 24 hours of soaking to make it soft. It is hard to get out some of the seeds inside the pulp when unsoaked.
Are hedge apples poisonous?
Hedge apples are mostly used as ornamental fruits. However, the question of it being edible still persists among people, even online.
Is Osage orange poisonous? Maybe, if You are not only Stick to the Seeds. Its pulp has a rough texture and secretes a latex liquid than can harm the skin. You will be left with the seeds that takes a lot of steps before it can be eaten.
The bumpy skin of the hedge apple is similar to a dehydrated fruit: it has lumps all over and is generally unappealing to most humans.
This ugly appearance and a semi-rigid exterior is the reason why most humans do not bother eating it.
After all, who has the time to peel a hard skin and only to find out its taste is as undesirable as its exterior.
When you open a hedge apple in half, a white and sticky fluid will come out from its pulp. This is called the latex which is comparable to the latex released by rubber trees.
There are no descriptions online about its taste. However, it is believed that this secretion is said to be the reason why pests are repelled.
- Hedge apples only work as in insect repellant in a closed space and not in an open one
- In the test, it worked against German cockroaches, mosquitoes, and houseflies in a closed space using large and concentrated amounts of the secretion
The latex secretion too is not just sticky like an industrial glue, it is also a skin irritant.
When a fruit is said to have a woody pulp, it means that when you bite into it, is not as tender like a mango or orange.
The overall texture is unyielding which is also a main reason why this fruit is considered inedible by some.
To be considered palatable, a fruit must taste good and also has a nice texture when eaten.
The fruit simply tastes bad. One YouTuber called “Weird Explorer” uploaded a video of him eating the hedge apple’s seed but not the pulp.
He soaked the fruit for 24 hours, took out the seeds, and fried them.
He described it as something in between a sunflower seed and popcorn.
How to eat hedge apple seeds?
Here is the traditional way of eating the seeds of hedge apples:
The role of hedge apple in the planet is more of as a fencing and a barrier rather than a food item. Its ability to tolerate unhealthy soil, extreme heat, and strong winds make it a good windbreaker and a hedge around the house.
However, since you will be leaving the fruit alone, it will just fall down. The worst case scenarios is you will have a lot of rotting hedge apples on your lawn which will emit a bad smell.
You can always use the wood and not the whole plant itself if you still prefer it as a hedge.
For the seeds, yes, they can be eaten without health risks. But, you still have to slice through the cardboard-tough exterior, soak it for 24 hours, wash with water to remove the skin-irritating liquid, and fry it. This process alone will take up a lot of time in exchange for just half a bowl of seeds.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.