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.


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