Last week I wrote a blog about "Haint Blue" paint that is supposed to keep bugs (and ghosts) away from your home. All of the many comments reminded me of something that happened years ago when we lived in Owensboro. My mom was visiting and we had been out to eat (The Moonlight Barbecue of course). To get back to our house in the Ben Hawes Park area you had to take Booth Field Road. As we were driving along mom started yelling, "Stop,stop". I slammed on the brakes and she jumped out of the back seat and dove into the weeds along Booth Field. She came back in a few seconds with a hedge apple.

 

If you've never seen one, they are light green and a little bigger than a softball. They have a hard pimpled exterior and are pretty worthless even though they give off a faint orange smell. At least I thought they were worthless. The hedge apple tree is short and tough. In some areas in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas they are planted around the edges of a field.When the hedge apple plants mature they are better than a fence.They make a "hedge" that will keep animals corralled. Some Native Americans made their bows from the wood which they say is the best for that purpose. The fruit is not tasty. Sometimes desperate wild animals and squirrels eat them and the seeds can be roasted or dried and eaten by humans like sunflower seeds.

eBay photo

My mom absolutely was convinced placing a hedge apple in the basement or anywhere in the house would keep spiders and most other insects away. She said you must be careful about letting any of the liquid that leaks out of the apples touch your bare skin as it can be an irritation. Some research has been done including this one from Iowa State University:

The use of the hedge apples for insect control is one of the most enduring pest management home remedies. Claims abound that hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement will repel boxelder bugs, crickets, spiders and other pests.  Research conducted at Iowa State University has demonstrated that chemicals extracted from the fruit can be repellant to tested insects (German cockroaches, mosquitoes and houseflies).  In addition, sliced hedge apples placed in enclosed, small spaces did repel insects

How about that? Evidently it's the presence of tetrahydroxystilbene in the fruit that has some useful properties.

Now comes the supposed benefits of the osage orange as it's sometimes called (because the Osage Native American tribe used it in many ways).

According to some folks the hedge apple can ward off a cold. They freeze the entire apple and every morning scrape off a couple of tablespoons of the outer covering with a cheese grater and take it with a tablespoon of honey when they feel a cold coming on. No official studies can prove this works although the apples have been found to have a some anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties,

 If you have a latex allergy you can't ingest them in any way or even let them touch your skin because they are from the same plant family as latex and can be harmful..

A couple of mouse clicks on your computer and a google search for "cancer" plus "hedge apple" will give you many testimonials from people that say they have had success using a couple of tablespoons a day to put their cancer into submission. There have been no official studies to link the two.

There are many ways to get your hands on hedge apples, Osage oranges, horse apples, monkey balls or whichever name you choose. The simplest way is to find a female tree and harvest the fruit. You can find them at some farmers markets. There are over a dozen people listed as selling them on eBay. This eBay site (redcherryshrimpexpress) has the hedge apples shown in all the photos in this blog.. They are even sold on Amazon. In parts of the country like Iowa they're usually sold in supermarkets. It's been 30 years since my mom found them lying on the ground under a Osage orange tree on Booth Field road in Owensboro. If the developers haven't bulldozed it down to build more houses, you might still find a few there for free.