Keeping You Safe: Osage Oranges

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

EVENDALE, OH (FOX19) -  Hedge apples, Horse apples, Osage oranges. Some people even call them "monkey brains." Whatever you call them, one thing you definitely don't want to do is eat them.

You can find plenty of the Osage oranges on the ground right now. Some people like to use them as a seasonal decoration. Others, as an insect repellent, according to folklore.

But they're not the kind of apples you ever want to take a bite out of.

Madeline Dorger from Gorman Heritage Farmyard gave FOX19 the skinny on the fat, funky prehistoric fruits.

"Giant ground sloths in the region used to eat them," Dorger said. "Now they're poisonous to most things."

They have a light, citrus smell, similar to an orange peel.

"I don't think it looks very appetizing," Dorger said. "I don't think a cat or a dog would try and eat it."

And neither should you or your kids.

"They would probably just throw up a couple times," she said. "It wouldn't make them deathly ill."

Some people swear keeping the fruits in your basement will ward-off bugs and spiders.

"It'll start to decompose in a couple of weeks," Dorger said. "It doesn't last very long, like any fruit would."

But if the fruits are kept inside without being exposed to sunlight, they will last longer.

"So all of these little sections is called a droop," Dorger said pointing to the fleshy insides do the odd-looking fruit ball. "Each individual section has it's own seed, so it's a group of droops to create a whole fruit, group of droops, a group of droops exactly."

Hundreds have already fallen from the trees at Gorman Farm.

"See this one is kind of cracked open already and you can see the seeds at the end of the droop, they're at the very core of it," Dorger said. "And then this is one section, that whole thing is the droop and then the seed is right there, right there.

"So the idea was that when they (the trees) were young," Dorger said. "You would tangle the branches and it makes like a living fence and that way the animals wouldn't be able to go through it."

Good luck keeping your footing with the softball sized fruits underfoot. The wood however, has one of the highest burning temps and is highly desirable. It is also super flexible.

"The Iroquois Nation used to make bows and arrows out of them," Dorger said. "They had the best weapons of the time period."

Dorger tried stomping on a fresh Osage orange, but it would not open-up under her stomping.

They're tough and take weeks to soften up.

"The kids like to throw them at logs," Dorger said. "But never at other kids, never at other kids," she joked. "No, that thought would never happen, no."

So why do people swear keeping Osage oranges in your basement repels spiders? Well, recent research suggests that "elemol," a compound that is extractable from the fruit, shows promise as a mosquito repellent. So, maybe it works just as well on spiders, although we could not find any definitive evidence to suggest it.

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