Friday, September 6, 2013

our friend the hedge apple.

If you are fortunate enough to be in supermarket or farmers' market that is selling hedge apples, buy one and discover why it might be your new best friend.  Commonly called hedge apple, the Osage Orange or Maclura Pomifera, is technically a fruit but in the mulberry family, and it is not related to the orange family.  But the reason you want to buy them is for their ability to repel insects and rodents.

While shopping over the weekend in Minnesota, we spotted a basket of the rock-hard balls with the irritating pattern but glorious color.  Next to the basket was a sign that tauted the insect repelling properties.  Then the lady next to Mike happened to mention that they also work on fruit flies.  Sold.  The colorful fruits flew into my grocery cart.

When I did a little research I found that folklore provides numerous claims that hedge apples repel insects and spiders.  As I age, I realize more and more that 'old wives' tales' are more fact than fiction.  Supposedly people used to keep a hedge apple under their beds to keep spiders away.  I am currently doing my own little bit of research, and so far so good!  No fruit flies in my kitchen even with the garden tomatoes. 

A Wikipedia article stated that some research showed that extracts of osage orange repelled some insect species better then DEET. Anything that helps keep fruit flies out of my kitchen - and keeps me away from DEET - is a friend of mine.

These interesting "fruits" have a shelf life for 2-3 months!  They only need to be discarded when most of the green has disappeared.  They are not poisonous, but have a reputation for suffocating livestock by getting lodged in their esophagus, and have also been called horse apples.  The Osage Orange is native to limited areas of southeastern Oklahoma and east Texas. 

I am thankful I spotted these new friends in Minnesota, and I am on the lookout for more.   I want to set one under every bed in the house in this spider-prone season.  I might just plant my own hedge apple tree this fall...

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