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Are Hedge Apples Edible? (And What Are They Good For?)

Are Hedge Apples Edible? (And What Are They Good For?)

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Hedge apples are yellow-green fruit produced by the Osage-orange, a small deciduous tree native to Texas, Oklahoma, and the Arkansas region. When cracked open, they reveal a fibrous, white pith surrounding small seeds—much like pineapples, except significantly tougher. 

At first glance, these avocado-slash-citrus imitations appear as appetizing as any other fruit you’d see in the wild. But as toxic ornamental gourds have taught us, looks can be deceiving. 

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about these strange fruits. Are hedge apples edible, and what are they typically used for? Let’s find out.

Hedge Apple 101

Bowl Of Hedge Apples

For those who have never heard or seen one before, hedge apples are typically yellowish-green and grow to about the size of a softball.

These plants generally grow somewhere between 25 and 30 feet. The fruit of these plants are commonly called both “hedge balls” as well as “hedge apples.”

What makes these fruits truly stand out, however, is the “hedge” shape they take on. Instead of a single round, smooth fruit, a hedge apple has interconnecting patterns of indentations along the exterior.

This immediately distinguishes them from ordinary apples and most fruits you’re likely to see along the Mississippi.

Are Hedge Apples Poisonous?

Upon first looking at the unique color and shape of the fruit, you might well wonder if it’s poisonous.

While that’s not strictly the case, the answer’s more complicated than that.

Hedge apples are listed by the American Association of Poison Control Centers as nontoxic. However, that isn’t the whole story.

While hedge apples aren’t toxic themselves, they contain substances that are sticky irritants, which can in turn cause dermatitis or eczema.

Annoying as it may be, eczema isn’t anywhere close to lethal and some skin cream can often be enough to take care of it. That said, getting a nasty rash probably isn’t something you’re willing to get just to handle these fruits.

The problems don’t stop there. Hedge apples also contain isoflavones, which have phenolic, which is itself like white willow.

This is a precursor to aspirin. However, on its own, it can also be a stomach irritant.

You may not have eaten a “poisonous” fruit, but from the severe pain that may ensue, you may feel like you have.

Are Hedge Apples Edible for Humans?

Holding A Hedge Apple

So, with that appetizing preamble, it should probably not come as much surprise that while hedge apples are not toxic per se and thus you “can” technically eat them, you almost certainly shouldn’t.

You hardly want to have to deal with the severe stomach pain that’ll likely follow after consumption.

Plus, hedge fruits aren’t particularly nourishing or nutritious. They aren’t like, say, durian, which is unpalatable to some due to its strong odor and distinct taste. If you can power through the smell, you’re at least benefiting from its nutritional content. 

Hedge fruit tries to give but doesn’t deliver.

What About Livestock?

As foodstuff for both humans as well as animals, hedge apples are unpalatable and practically useless.

While cattle may not die from the hedge apples’ contents, their size and shape can get stuck in their throats, causing them to suffocate.

Even if you mash them up, hedge apples remain unpalatable and your cattle probably won’t be too pleased at the prospect of having to eat them.

While it’s true that cattle aren’t the pickiest of eaters, they’d probably appreciate pretty much any other feed you have available. They’d benefit from eating food that’s actually nutritious and won’t potentially cause them severe stomach pain.

What About as a Pest Control Measure?

So, eating hedge apples is pretty much out of the question. Still, these fruits grow all over the area, so you might well wonder if they can be used for something else. In particular, as a pest control measure.

The short answer is no, you can’t, not in its raw form. The long answer is, yes…but only if you’re willing to put a bit of effort into it. 

If you live in the Ozarks region, you may have seen people trying to use hedge apples for entirely different purposes, namely as a pest control measure. This is an old home remedy that has persisted in the region for some time.

At first blush, you might think that this isn’t a crazy idea. After all, if hedge apples are so unappetizing, surely insects won’t wish to eat them. And since the innards produce a juice that can cause eczema in humans, that hardly sounds like the sort of thing that is good for bugs and insects either.

For some families in the region, that reasoning is good enough. They’ve been used either whole or sliced, on their own or in conjunction along with lemon and chestnuts, and placed in the surrounding area to repel pests.

Basement Spider

The only problem with this theory is that there is no scientific evidence to back it up. If you’d like to try it yourself, there’s certainly nothing stopping you. (There definitely isn’t a rush of people clamoring to eat hedge apples instead.)

To give credit where credit is due, chestnuts paired with peppermint oil are somewhat effective at repelling a couple of types of spiders. Even so, researchers at Iowa State University have found hedge apples along with lemons to be completely useless in repelling spiders.

The best that can be said about hedge apples in terms of their pest-repelling powers is that those same researchers found that some compounds within the fruit are able to repel cockroaches.

That said, left intact, a whole hedge apple is nowhere near as effective. 

Chances are you don’t have the time, tools, or patience to carefully extract the right compounds from the hedge apple, and even if you are able to do so, would you really want to be bothered when affordable cockroach traps and repellent are readily available?

Other Uses

Hedge Apples On A Table

Okay, so they’re unpalatable, will give you horrible stomach pain, and while after lots of effort, they may repel a cockroach or two, they’re certainly not the magical pest-repellent old wives’ tales purport to be.

Is there anything that hedge apples are actually good for besides being unique balls of curiosity which, upon further examination, only become more and more distasteful, literally and figuratively?

If you are absolutely dead set on putting the hedge apples near your home or in your yard to use somehow, there may be a couple of highly limited options to consider. 


The woody branches and trees from which they grow are considered to be hard and durable. 

On the one hand, this has nothing to do with the actual hedge apples themselves.

However, unlike the hedge apples, this wood might actually be useful—if you’re willing to go through the trouble of cutting it down and using it as lumber for furniture, fences, and other things.

Archers looking for wood for their bows have spoken highly of this wood as well.

At the University of Kansas, research has been done looking into ways of breeding these trees for landscaping and ornamental purposes. However, this research also eschews hedge fruit, either cutting it out or minimizing its messy parts.

Ornamental Decor

In the same vein, some people have taken to selling hedge apples as home decorations. 

Their vibrant color and distinctive texture make them stand out in seasonal displays, bringing a touch of natural charm to homes. 

The fruits’ purported pest-repelling properties—even if anecdotal—further add an additional layer of intrigue for those seeking an aesthetic and functional element in their decor. 

What About Getting Rid of Them?

By this point, your curiosity about these intriguing fruits may well have turned to irritation—and not just because the liquid from hedge apples can sorely irritate your skin and stomach.

The apples themselves don’t seem to be good for very much, and even the wood that grows on the trees producing them will likely take a while to chop down and use. What if, quite understandably, you decide all of that is simply not worth your time?

Might you just be better off getting rid of them altogether?

Here again, however, hedge apples prove as stubborn as they are potentially frustrating.

While products such as Floren and Snipper can be used to keep other trees such as sweet gum trees in check, preventing them from producing pointed seed balls, there is no evidence to suggest this would be effective on hedge apple trees.

Planting trees without the full set of reproducible organs can help stop them from breeding.

If you already have these trees in your yard, you may be stuck simply cutting them down. Alternatively, you might try spraying leaves rather than the branches to kill the tree slowly.

That said, the wood itself may be left standing for years and anyway, a tree dying a slow death is hardly a good look for your yard.

Hedge apples are certainly a curious-looking, initially intriguing fruit. It’s just a shame they are not, to date, a more useful one.

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Michael Steward

Monday 17th of October 2022

Osage orange was used extensively prior to the introduction of barbed wire as a hedge plant. There are osage orange hedges standing today that are well over 150 years old. Kept short, they still interweave to form an essentially impenetrable living hedge.

Karen Bergeron

Saturday 20th of August 2022

I've been using hedge apples since last November. I sliced them and freeze dried them, then made tea bags and tincture. I have had no stomach irritation except for a bit of "cleansing" the first few days. They are very high in isoflavones and show significant activity on cannabinoid receptors.

carl killingsworth

Wednesday 3rd of November 2021

I completely agree on your description of the fruit, not good for much except a choking hazard for cattle, and squirrels love to tear them apart and eat the seeds in the center.

The wood however is a different story. They are a staple in southwest Missouri for fence building. I have corner posts on my farm (10 to 12 inch diameter) that have been in the ground over a hundred years, and used for line posts, either cut at 3 to 4 inch diameter, or split from larger trees, sharpened and driven into the ground with a post maul. Used as line posts, we count on them lasting 30 or 40 years, actually lasting as long as steel posts.

It is a pretty wood, but extremely hard when cured,making it difficult to work with tools, and prone to splitting because it is difficult to dry evenly.

Julina Smith

Friday 4th of November 2022

YES!! re: the squirrels - we have 5 trees in our yard and our neighborhood squirrels get fat on the fruit/seeds. Also, the density of the wood makes it good for burning in our wood stove once you get it split to a manageable size (and it *is* very pretty wood - bright yellow when first split, mellowing into a burnt orange color)