If you live in the Great Plains, you probably know all about hedge apples. Hedge apples are the fruit of the Osage orange trees and are actually neither apples nor oranges. The trees are called Osage oranges because hedge apples smell a bit like oranges. They are easy to spot because they are very bright, yellowish-green fruits that grow all over Osage orange trees, even after the trees have lost their leaves. They fruits have wrinkled skin and can grow up to six inches in diameter.
Squirrels go absolutely nuts over hedge apples. You can eat the seeds too, but it will take a lot of work to get them clean. If you cut a hedge apple in half, you will discover a pithy core surrounded by 200 little seeds. You'll have to rip apart the tough, stringy fruit and clean off the slimy husk around each individual seed before you can eat them. You might notice around your Osage orange trees that squirrels tend to make a huge mess when they are on the hunt for hedge apple seeds.
Many people in the Great Plains believe that hedge apples will repel spiders. These folks will line their homes and basements with hedge apples to drive away all sorts of creepy crawlies. Recently, scientists discovered that this belief could be somewhat true. Research at Iowa State University uncovered that there are chemical compounds in hedge apples that repel cockroaches. A single fruit does not contain enough of these chemicals to be really effective, though.
If you do decide to try to eat some hedge apple seeds, be careful. The trees have thorns which could poke you. Also, there is some indication that the milky substance in the hedge apples could irritate your skin. Scientists used to believe that hedge apples were poisonous, but it turned out that livestock that were trying to eat them were just choking.