The Osage orange (hedge apple) tree
It turns out that hose bumpy green balls you see all over the place actually have value. In fact, these hedge apples or hedge balls can now be worth equal to or even more than the same amount of corn! That’s pretty amazing.
Back around Labor Day Weekend, during a final push of yard sales and flea markets, around Mount Pleasant, Iowa, for example, you may have noticed some folks with literally buckets full of hedge apples for sale. Prices ranged anywhere from a quarter to 75 cents for a single apple. I didn’t see many John and Jane Q. Publics buying, but keep reading to see who is buying…
Cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, essential oils
Local innovators and chemists have developed a relatively new company named HTO out of Monmouth, Illinois that happens to be the world’s largest harvester of hedge apple oil — just 30 miles or 40 minutes from Burlington. Since the 1930s, the U.S. government and publications have long shown uses for the oil, and Monmouth’s Mark Hockenberry and John Twomey spent years figuring out how to bypass the underlying obstacles involved in efficiently collecting the oil from the hedge apples — as well as coming up with a high enough volume of hedge apples to make it worthwhile. The harvested oils are then sold and used to create natural cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and essential oils.
Farmers have begun growing the hedge apple trees for this company, and everyday citizens have also gotten involved. What are the apples worth to the company? $180 per ton! -food for thought for those of us that always thought they were just worthless monkey brains or horse apples!-
HTO is hoping for rapid growth of the company — perhaps having around a half dozen new facilities within 3 years. They’re headquartered in the newly remodeled, former City Ford building in Monmouth.
I have hedge balls coming out of my ears. Is there any way to reach out to HTO?
They’re located at 800 Access Road A in Monmouth, Illinois 61462 — with phone number (309) 737-5765. It’ll be so interesting to see how this company makes it’s mark on our area and the world in years to come — no pressure on them!
I’ve heard hedge apples keep spiders and bugs away? Is there any compelling evidence?
You may hear tales of good fortune and certainly of the spider and cricket-repelling capabilities of hedge apples. While there are compounds within the apples, that, when concentrated, repel bugs – the whole-form hedge apple itself won’t get the job done, according to research at Iowa State University. You could always put a few around your windows and foundation just for fun though.
Brief hedge apple details
Osage orange trees stand out pretty vividly within an autumn tree line. They can grow to 30 to 50 feet high, and the apples themselves really weigh a tree down, each getting as large as 6 inches in diameter! They were named after the Osage Nation Native American tribe that lived in the Great Plains long ago. Interesting note – not all Osage orange trees bear apples since some trees are female and some are male.
Can people or animals eat them?
They’re tough. Pretty much the only edible part of a hedge apple lies with the 200 or so seeds that are within the hedge apple – and harvesting those seeds wouldn’t be worth it to most folks… but if you’ve seen shreds of hedge apples lying around, you know that the work was worth it to the squirrels. Cattle occasionally choke on them.
Photo by dfwurbanwildlife.com
Who’s got ’em?
The green-shaded counties are where Osage orange trees are found.