The hedge apple, also known as the Osage orange, is a hard, flowering fruit native to Oklahoma, Texas, and some areas in Arkansas. Hedge apples are typically used as shrubs to create external barriers for properties. The plant that the hedge apple erupts from grows on thick, orange bark and can invade areas where it is unwanted. However, given the name and the association with standard apples, people often wonder whether hedge apples are edible.
Read on to find the answer. It might not be the one you expect.
Is the Hedge Apple Edible?
Although its name can be deceiving, the hedge apple is unlike other apples. You can not eat a hedge apple. Not only would it taste bitter, but it could also lead to stomach cramps and other digestion issues.
The latex secreted by the hedge apple is harsh to the human body, which is why the hedge apple is deemed inedible. The secretions from the fruit irritate the esophagus and disrupt the PH balance naturally found in the human stomach.
The bumpy skin on the fruit also makes this apple an unfriendly fruit to ingest. It is hard and uneven to indicate you should not eat it. Certain animals will snack on this fruit, but it is not recommended for humans to eat it unless no other food source is available.
What To Do if You Accidentally Ingest the Fruit
If you eat a hedge apple by mistake, drink a lot of water to try and wash the fruit down your throat quickly. Although it irritates your stomach, it is not necessarily poisonous and should pass quickly.
However, if you start to feel nauseous or dizzy after ingesting the hedge apple, or if the aforementioned symptoms persist for more than three days, you should see a doctor immediately.
Purposes of the Hedge Apple
Since you can’t eat the fruit, you might wonder what humans use the hedge apple trees for. Hedge apple shrubs can be used for a variety of things. The wood is used to make outdoor objects such as fence posts, tool handles, and other items commonly exposed outdoors. The hard nature of the hedge apple tree wood makes it ideal for weathering harsh conditions.
The sharp thorny trees were also used as natural “barbed wire” to contain the farmers’ cows in the field. The cows would be forced to stay where they were since they didn’t want to cross those large, invasive trees. The distinct orange color of the bark makes it great for making dyes and tannins.
The Hedge Apple and Bad Reputations
The fruit got a bad reputation as being known for killing livestock, but after further discovery, people found that the cows merely choked on the large, throat-sized fruits rather than being poisoned by them.
The hedge apple isn’t all bad, though; there is some use for the fruit. Although the compounds aren’t strong enough on their own to be natural bug repellents, when extracted manually from the fruit, you can use them in bug repellents. The seeds of the fruit are also edible, so eating the actual fruit could make you sick, but the seeds are perfectly edible.
So, to answer the question – no, hedge apples are not edible. It’s not toxic and won’t kill you, but it isn’t pleasant and can have some irritating side effects.
You may also be interested to find out whether squirrels eat apples.