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Apples

This week I want to tell you about a special kind of apple. Apparently it is one about which the country knows very little. It is a home decorating bonanza and we need to strike while the latest agri-business niche is hot.

I picked up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens at the grocery store last week. I rarely buy those types of magazines. I am something of a news junkie (imagine that) and my reading taste runs more to Newsweek or Time. But I just couldn’t resist this one.

Those who know me well, know I didn’t make the purchase for the recipes. Actually, I didn’t make the purchase for anything vaguely related to homes or gardens. I bought the magazine because the cover had this gorgeous glossy photo of colorful gourds, candles, and red maple leaves on a tray full of “wrinkly green hedge apples.” Honestly, I had to look twice when I saw the picture under the big headline, “Autumn’s Best.” Hedge apples!

Who would have thought?

There is even a small article telling about how popular the Osage orange fruit is in the Midwest. “Demand for hedge apples is such that many grocery stores sell them each fall when the fruits ripen.”

Aw, pshaw! This kind of stuff just knocks my socks off. Imagine that prim and proper decorating magazine telling folks all over the country that there is a big demand for hedge apples. And what do we have piling up underneath “hedge” rows all over Kansas? I always thought the fruit was the negative side of planting the Osage orange tree.

I am pretty certain no self-respecting Kansan would be caught dead paying for hedge apples at the local grocery store!

The magazine editors did get part of the story right. There is a brief sentence noting that the Osage orange is not recommended as an ornamental tree. Gee, you think? Who wants that picturesque green wrinkly produce all over the yard?

I must admit, however, that I was quite taken by the hedge apples the first time I saw them. It was shortly after my parents had deposited me at the Mount Hoadie School for Girls in Missouri for my freshman year of college. I grew up in Midwestern states, but had never seen hedge apples (must have been too cold for them where I came from).

Some friends and I saw them along a country road just beyond the college. The fashion fad for that year was pierced ears (yes, youngsters, that was a daring thing to do back in the mid-1960s). One of the other girls and I gathered up hedge apples and eventually made giant earrings for our friends in the dorm for Christmas gag gifts. We looped wire coat hangers through the fruit. We left the hanger hook in place to go through those holes in their ears. Clever, huh?

We were agri-business entrepreneurs and we didn’t even know it. With hedge apple jewelry we were ahead of our time.

I should let you know, I guess, that there are about 20 listings on eBay for hedge apples. None of them have any bids and most of the offerings note that they are a natural pesticide. None of the sellers refer to hedge apples as decorating items. Do we know that they really are natural pesticides or is that just an old Kansas wives’ tale?

At any rate, this is your chance. The market for this breed of apple is about to bust wide open. You had best get out to the back 40 and see if there are any left in the hedge row for harvest. To find out how high the bar is set for pretty fruit (not the scuffed, bruised, damaged stuff we see) you might high-tale it off to the grocery store and check out Rick’s bin of fine hedge apples. Or just buy a copy of that Better Homes and Gardens to see pristine hedge produce.

I think this ranks right up there with the agri-business guy near Emporia who charges people a ton of money to come to his ranch and set his pastures on fire every spring. Or the lady in western Kansas who marketed tumble weeds on eBay to folks on both coasts and made hundreds of dollars. I might even test the waters and see if Osage orange jewelry is the wave of the future.

And that is my opinion about apples for this week.

— Susan Marshall

Last modified Oct. 29, 2009

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