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Hedge Apples I: A product for farmers markets? for medicine?

By Ed Waggener

Hedge apples. Those sticky-skinned kids love to find and plunk, as our oldest little boy loved to do with the ones he'd find along St. Asaph's Creek behind the Harvey Helm Library in Stanford, KY, which some considered nuisances, especially the kind with over-manicured, uninteresting lawns, may have economic possibilities, at least scientists at Texas A & M think so in this 2006 article: Bois darc fruit may hold key to alzheimers

Today, there's additional interest in the heretofore thought to be inedible lowly hedge apple as as cancer fighting ingestible - eaten, if at all - after learning all the facts.

We knew about the use of hedge apples in lore from reading the works of Billy Joe Fudge first in the old print edition of Columbia! Magazine, before it was reprinted in the dot com version of today.

An early article, at this link: Great trees which cites Emma Brenda Woody, on the spider-warding-off aspect, with this brief paragraph, "According to Emma Woody, who grew up in the German settlement of Ottenheim in Lincoln County, hedge-apples are useful around the house, particularly in basements, because they ward off spiders. It makes sense that this is so, from what Billy Joe Fudge says about its use in making pesticides."

The center of the hedge-apple (Bois d'arc is just one of many names the tree goes by). It's scientific name is Maclura pomifera according to Wikipedia: maclura pomifera, and article which lists the fruit as edible, but, mainly because of texture and taste, few do so.

We've learned that some, particularly alternative medicine devotees (as well as those in desperate straits combating cancer or alzheimer's) are ingesting very, very small amounts with at least anecdotal - most will tell you that - reports of improvements.

Hedge apples thrive here

Hedge apples almost dominate the countryside in Central Kentucky, with the most famous one - unless Telsie Fudge's tree near Chestnut Grove, near Breeding, holds (or held) that title, would be the one in Ft. Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg, KY.

Those who have become interest in the value of the Hedge Apple as a health food, have been quietly spotting, and getting permission to gather them from the land owners. Time was, before the local and state governments assault on the countryside with herbicides, roadside gleaning might have been perfectly safe, but today, few recommend gathering anything along the waysides.

A refreshing note we've received, is that greed is not a factor for many promoting further exploration of value of Hedge Apple fruit ingested for health.

And we're taking the news at more than a dose of skepticism and caution. We're not yet ready to try ingesting - but do have an open mind.

We do use them, on occasion to ward of spiders

We do strategically place hedge apples around the house to ward off spiders, especially the ones few ever see, but are so prevalent in most houses, the brown recluse.

And we're dedicated to plunking them; wish we had a tree
Remembering the glee a three year old gets plunking hedge apples in creeks, we wish we had planted some in the yard next to Town Creek, for projectiles for the grandkids. We live in a house built with little ones in mind, and that seems such an oversight, now.

Unforgettable, perhaps apocryphal hedge apple story

Throwing hedge apples the stuff of legend. In one of the counties along the Cumberland Parkway, during the period of land confiscation by the Highway Department, some fared better with the gummint than offices. Heroes were those who bested the assessment of the State.

One such case, the story is told, is about a tiny corner, a fraction of an acre, where a hedge apple tree grew.

The owner had rejected all offers the State made, and the case came to trial.

The attorney arguing the state's case used comparable value arguments and insisted the state had made a just settlement.

But the owner said, "But that tree has such sentimental value."

"Sentimental value?" the state's lawyer wanted to know.

"Yes," the landowner said. "Not for me, but for the 'churren' - they love to throw them at each other.'"

And he won - as we were told, his asking price. Don't know that the story is true altogether, but it's a good one.

If you have comments, send using the "Comments" button with this story, or Contact/Submit buttons throughout the magazine.

This story was posted on 2017-08-03 05:15:34

Robert Ellis: The Hedge Apple Tree in winter

2017-08-04 - Maysville, Mason County, KY - Photo by Robert Ellis (c).
Hedge Apple, Winter Scene, Maysville Area Kentucky - Fascinating article about the medicinal possibilities of the hedge apple. I took this picture of this tree back late winter and this past weekend while I was in that area I meant to locate this tree to take a picture of it while bearing its fruit . . . but got distracted with other photography in other places. I would add that some folks in that area are quite aware of the "healing" properties of the lowly apple. By the way, that area seems to have more of those trees than other places, although I have spotted a few in and around our area when doing photography. - ROBERT ELLIS

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Trees of Kentucky: Osage orange, laden with fruit

2017-08-31 - Ewing Road, Creston, Casey County, KY - Photo by Linda Waggener,
Ripening, ready-to-fall Osage Orange fruit - hedgeapples - hang heavy on the tree, on Ewing Road in Casey County, KY. Photo Wed 30 Aug 2017.

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