Sunday, November 8, 2009

Drying Hedge Apples for decorating



The Hedge Balls you use for drying can be the freshest you can get or the end of season Osage Oranges that are already showing dry brown spots on the outer flesh. You do not want to use any horse apples that have soft spots, are mushy, oozing lots of milky sap, have black decay around the stem, or have any gooey spots anywhere on the outer flesh for drying as a crafting material.

I personally feel that the hedge apples that have spent the entire season in the open air and are picked off the ground in the late fall or early winter are the best for drying as they have already started the drying process. The dryer, lighter weight, hedge balls with the most brown spots on the outer rind, dry faster, slice easier and have already lost a lot of their water content by exposure to the elements. Of course, by waiting, there are less quality Osage oranges to choose from because the critters have been feasting on the hedge balls all season. When you have an easy 300,000 hedge balls to choose from, like we do on our farm pastures, then I can afford to wait.

Horse Apples have lots of water content and are very moist. The hedge balls that are showing light brown spots on the outer flesh have already begun to air dry and cure. It will take slightly less time for them to fully dry and cure as slices.

I have not tried to dry a whole ball yet, as I do not have projects currently in mind that require full hedge balls and find the slices to be more useful in dried floral arrangements, altered art, mixed media assemblages, home décor wreaths, garlands and swags.


Hedge apples which are not suitable for drying, can be used for winter critter feed or as an alleged way to chase spiders, crickets, cockroaches, or box elder bugs out of your home. Squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, deer, and many other animals love to eat the seeds of the Osage Orange.

The Horse Apples which have give or mushy soft areas or bad spots on the inner flesh, can be still be used as winter wildlife feed or as a Folklore remedy for insect repellent.

The seeds of the Maclura Pomifera have high protein, carbohydrates, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iodine, carotenoid, chlorophyll, linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, triacylglycerols, and rich in tocopherols. By putting the mushy hedge balls out in winter, you can provide a much needed and appreciated high quality feed for any critters that are in your area. You can find the exact values of the chemical composition and profile characteristics of Osage orange Maclura pomifera seeds and essential oils on this web site.

The oozy, sticky, milky sap has the highest concentration of the essential oil called Elemol, that is RUMORED to repel insects. (Please understand, I am not claiming any PROOF to the insect repellent properties – just that the hedge apples are a FOLKLORE remedy as an insect repellent and several preliminary tests have been started.)


Gather your supplies:

1. HEDGE BALLS– how ever many you feel like slicing


I use Ansell Nitrile long gloves from England – and the reason for that is, every year, Council Grove, KS has a festival called Washunga Days. There is a flea market. I found an entire CASE FULL OF THESE GLOVES for the overwhelming price of ONE WHOLE AMERICAN DOLLAR!!! I have been using the same $1.00 case of gloves for 3 years now and am only now down to about one dozen pairs of gloves left. I never did know exactly how many pairs were in that $1.00 box. But $1.00 was well spent and I have been visiting the same vendor the last two years and HOPING he had another CASE of those gloves. No luck.

Some people experience mild dermatitis from the sticky milky sap – and the Osage oranges are very sticky and gooey. I don't care for the GOO AND STICKINESS all over my hands and fingers so I wear gloves.



such as: old thrift store picture frames with window screening stapled on the back, thrift store dish strainers, bare mattress springs, old baby gates which have been taken apart, or expensive custom built botanical drying racks – whatever is in your budget.


I do all my slicing outside on a picnic table that we have designated for craft use only. We do lots of sticky, messy, dirty outside crafting like finger painting, marbling paper, tie dying, dyeing wool and protein fiber, and numerous other messy kid and adult type crafting.

We are are lucky to have a hand me down picnic table just for such crafty purposes. I don't have to fret if an over zealous 3 year old decides to color the whole picnic table with permanent marker I accidentally laid down for 2 seconds. I encourage free form art of the moment, on our craft table!

Others might want to protect any surfaces they cut on, as I can not repeat enough, the fruit of the Maclura Pomifera is VERY sticky and VERY gooey.


As far as the thickness of your slices, try many different sizes and see what works best for you. I slice many different thickness to get a nice variety for my crafting. Some slices are gauzy thin, some are thick. My slices ranged from paper thin up to ½” or more thick. You can also use a meat slicer for the horse apples and get nice even slabs.

The thicker the slice, the longer time it takes to fully dry out, but you get great natural shaping with thicker slices. The thicker the slice, the more cup shape you get to your slices with out having to mold or shape with forms or tin foil balls. The thinner slices, stay flatter and don't curl up as much unless dried over a form. Thinner slices are easily molded into floral shapes by drying slices in muffin tins, laid over tin foil balls, or on bare mattress springs.

There is much more control over the shaping, with the thinner slices. I slice the Osage Oranges so I have a nice variety of thick, thin, and everything in between widths from which to choose from for my crafting needs.


I only air dry my slices. I have never tried to oven dry or dry in a dehydrator, although I know others that have. When you air dry the Hedge Apples, they retain some of the lovely chartreuse green color as you can see in the photo.

I have seen horse apple slices that were oven cured and some that were dried in a dehydrator and the slices have a tan faded brown color. Some people then spray paint or otherwise alter the slices with added pigments or glitter of one sort or another.

So, if you want plain faded tan slices, use dehydrator or oven and if you want golden, greenish, slices, then most definitely, air dry.

When painted or glittered, the slices are awesome! Sparkles and shiny things are great for holiday décor. You also get faster gratification by using an oven or dehydrator, as it only takes a day or so to dry out 1/4” slices and for really thin slices, drying in the oven could take a few hours. You just have to keep checking the slices often.

I am really fond of the color chartreuse and like a natural look right now, so I choose to air dry my Hedge Balls. Of course, my taste could change in at a moment's notice.


I slice all the hedge balls in the same manner you would halve a grapefruit. The stem and base I consider as top and bottom. Lay the hedge apple on it's side with the stem end horizontal. Then slice as thin or thick as you want. Slicing this way shows off the seeds and graining of the fruit, in my opinion. I have no problems at all slicing with a standard 7 to 10 inch blade chefs kitchen knife. The hedge balls are not hard or tough and slice with ease.


Some people shape the slices over crumpled foil, but in my experience, a 1/4” to 1/2” slice cups up naturally when air dried. If you want a more controlled shape then use the crumpled foil or an old muffin tin. The thicker slices tend to break when you try to mold them, but the thinner slices shape easier.

I have dried the larger diameter slices by laying them on a bare spring mattress. As they dry from the outer edges in, the curving cup shape is much more pronounced and shaping is controllable. You have to watch them, as they shrink and then fall through the springs. At that point, they are dry enough to move to a screen for more drying if needed. They retain the curve shape from the bed springs. The whole air drying process takes from 3 weeks up to several months. It depends on humidity levels in your drying area, how thick the slices are, and air temperature. I dry all my pods, seeds, botanicals, flowers, berries, bulbs, garlic, herbs, and hedge apples in my basement. I have a room devoted to the drying of natural items. I also run a dehumidifier when needed to help speed the drying time.

For the hedge balls slices, I dry in many different ways depending on what I want to do with them. Some slices, I lay out on empty thrift store frames with screen stapled to the back, bare mattress springs, muffin tins, crumpled tin foil balls, and many other forms laying around my studio that have a nice curved shape.


Hedge Apples will shrink 25% or more of their original size when fully dried and cured. The larger size hedge apples that our trees produce are great for drying as you get nice big sizes that shrink down to a usable size for wreaths and dried floral arrangements.

The horse apples shown in the photo were 4” wide when freshly sliced. After air drying for 3 weeks, the slices were 2 1/4” wide, with a nice cupped shape. In the photo, you can see the shrinkage comparison of the two slices. One fresh, one dried.

The dried slice in the photo example was 1/2” thick when sliced. After 3 weeks of air curing on a screen in drying room with average basement conditions, the dried slice measured 2 1/4” inches across with a graceful curved shape, and went from 1/2” thick to 1/4” thick. This slice is still pliant and not quite fully dried yet. Your slices will vary based on the conditions in your drying area.


  • Retain some of the lovely green color by air drying the mock orange slices.

  • For neutral manila-folder-brown color, oven dry or use a dehydrating machine.

  • Shape slices with muffin tins, bare bed springs, tin foil balls, floral forms or whatever you have on hand.

  • Glue the slices when fully dry to wreaths, swags, garlands, or floral sticks for dried boquets.

  • Dried slices which were cut thicker can also be drilled and strung. The slices are sturdy enough but only if cut thicker.


We are reaching the end of our crop. Limited quantities are available in our ArtFire store. The price listed is 50% off our standard price. The hedge apples we have left are beginning to show brown edges on the skin and no longer pretty enough for bowl fillers. The mock oranges we have left are great for drying or placing around your home to discourage insects.

Horse Apples will be available fresh in our store next August until we run out of stock. An average size crop for us is 400,000 Osage Oranges per harvest.


Thanks for stopping in and please come back soon to Shorn Sheep! Visit us on Facebook, Etsy, Twitter, LinkedIn, ArtFire or our blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hedge Apples make the bugs go away

Hedge Apples are a folklore method of naturally and safely repelling spiders, crickets, and cockroaches from your home or apartment. There have been many studies on the active properties that work to repel these pesky bugs. One of the compounds they have found in the essential oils of the Osage Orange Hedge Ball fruit is called elemol. This is known to repel many nasty insects.

Anyone can search this elemol on the Internet and find many useful sites that explain in scientific detail how it all works. All I can say from personal experience is we live in the country and spiders, crickets and beetles LOVE my basement. Of course, as luck would have it, this is where my business office and art studio is located.

I could go downstairs and hear crickets sing, sometimes so loudly and cantankerously that it wracked my nerves and deadened my ear drums. Once I started hand dyeing wool and making full use of my basement as an office and art studio, the crickets were no longer my friends and allies. Crickets in my wool, my fine art papers, my extensive collection of rare and antique books and fabrics, are an absolute NO NO. The crickets HAD to be evicted from their little haven. And the SPIDERS, oh, my! There were cob webs everywhere in my studio if I missed one day of being at work. What is one to do?

The Maclura Pomifera, or Osage Orange Tree as it is commonly known grows in great thickets and groves on our little piece of land we call our own and pay taxes on. Hedge Apples grow quite large and heavy on our Maclura Pomifera trees. If one of my family is unfortunate enough to be riding their 4 wheelers when one of these lovely 1 to 4 pound hedge balls decides to let go of it's tree limb, then I hear ALL about it and am left to wipe their tears and nurse a lump on the head. We have our dog's houses under an Osage Orange tree and there are many a day from August to October when a loud YELP is heard from a sudden meeting of horse apple and dog head.

Quickly, I realized the dangers and nuisances of having an Osage Orange tree on your property. Being always the naturalist, I researched what could possibly be done with our prolific crop of mock oranges, besides their propensity to be used as softballs or dodge balls on a sibling. They are a lovely chartreuse green color, which I have always been fond of, and I brought many a fruit inside as bowl fillers and mantle accessories for my home decor.

Vintage White Enamel Basin - Osage Apple Hedge Balls - Chartreuse Home Decor

I soon began to run out of horizontal areas to put out more bowls of spider balls. Surely, in all my crafty resourcefulness I could find other uses for this amazing yellow green brain fruit. I knew in my heart there was a more glorified purpose for these lovely hefty balls.

Research began on the history and legends of the fruit of the Maclura Pomifera. I kept bringing more apples inside to look at and cut into slices for drying and my house became filled with a soft and appealing citrus clean smell. Suddenly, as I was working in my basement studio, I realized I was missing something. I couldn't put my finger on it for a bit, until it dawned on me that the crickets were no longer giving me fits and scaring the boo out of me when I moved a box or opened a drawer. They were no longer prolific. The spider webs that were so annoying and creepy when you walked through the basement were no longer there! I did not have to use my broom to clear away all the spider webs from my work areas as a start to my work day! What was going on?! I couldn't figure it out, until I started to put two and two together and look at what was different in my studio. As I was surrounded by my hedge balls on every shelf and in every spare bowl, I began to miss the crickets serenade and wondered why they had all moved out of my studio. The spiders and their whisps of annoying webs, well they weren't missed a bit!

I realized that the only new addition to my routine was the hedge balls I kept bringing inside. As my research continued on the wonders of the Bois D'arc, as hedge balls are also known, I discovered one of the folklore uses for this large brain looking apple was an insect repellent. The pioneers used these large monkey brain balls in their homes and cabins to keep out all the pesky spiders, crickets, and beetles that love to cohabit with humans. This could be why all the crickets had decided to move back outside and the spiders were no longer prolific! With all the concern over indoor air pollution and the health and safety risks of using harsh pesticides and sprays to deter unwelcome critters, how could one go wrong with trying something all natural and safe in your home?

Many people have commented on their experience with hedge-apples as an Eco minded choice for insect repellent and a quick Internet search will provide lots of data. I just know that I am no longer jumping every time I pull out a box of wool because of a large black cricket lunging out at me. I miss the cricket music, but I can always get that on a nature cd. Life without the crickets in my studio just seems better and I didn't have to pollute anything to make them leave. And life without spiders webs in your face daily, well THAT is priceless indeed!

I haven't even touched on the crafting potential of these marvelous hedge apple balls. I'm still experimenting with the best drying techniques to use on them. When you slice them, mold them with crumpled tin foil balls or in old muffin tins and let them air dry, the hedge ball slices retain some of the lovely chartreuse green color and are shaped ever so sweetly. As I said, the drying of them, is still an experiment in the works. It takes months for them to dry.

Right now, Hedge Apples are listed in my ArtFire studio and there is a 15% off coupon. During checkout use coupon code: HEDGEAPPLE

All Hedge Apples are on sale in my store with coupon code: HEDGEAPPLE

Get 15% off any order of Hedge Balls listed.

We are still harvesting fresh hedge balls, but some are starting to show age spots. Stock up now while they have the most life left in them.