Hedge apples are the fruit of the Osage Orange tree, but unfortunately they aren't aren't edible. Too bad, because they seem to be everywhere in early fall in the Midwest.
Devon, England, has some of the most ancient and renowned hedgerows in the world. I haven’t been there in person, but Paula of Locks Park Farm in Devon (link below) took her readers on a virtual tour of the hedgerows on her farm. You could almost hear the song thrush singing in the trees as we “walked” along the path. It was a sunny day after weeks of rainy weather in the Devon countryside. In her photographs, the rose hips, crab apples and elderberries are explosions of color among the green leaves. Somewhere dormouse nests (Alice in Wonderland!) are hidden in the hedges.
I told her we have “old” hedges here, too — not a thousand or more years old, of course. One hundred and fifty years old is an ancient hedgerow here in the Midwest. Our hedgerows consist mostly of Osage Orange trees, Maclura pomifera, which were planted densely together to confine cattle in the days before barbed wire. Because these trees are so durable, they still mark the pastures, even though fencing is now used. Paula describes her county’s hedgerows as part of a patchwork field system and imagines ours as vast fields, which in the Midwest is often true. There’s a Cole Porter song that begins “Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don’t fence me in.” Everyone from Bing Crosby to ABBA has sung it. (Videos below.)
Osage Orange thorns make a menacing hedge.
Osage Orange wood is very dense and prized for bows, tool handles and other uses. It’s sometimes called ironwood, because it’s so hard to cut. Other plants, including varieties of dogwood shrubs and wildflowers such as goldenrod and sunflower, grow among the Osage Orange trees, providing homes for wildlife. The trees were named for the Osage Indians of the area, for the color of the wood and for the fruit, called hedge apples, which are about the size of a large orange. They aren’t toxic, but they’re not a good food source, either.
Hedge apple "harvest" in my neighborhood. Hedge apple cider, anyone?
Extinct animals such as the giant ground sloth and the mammoth from 10, 000 years and longer ago may have eaten hedge apples, but now only squirrels seem to find any part of them nutritious. They tear apart the apple to get at the seeds, leaving a mess. A few other animals, such as horses and cattle, will eat the fruit, but it’s not very good for them.
In my neighborhood, Osage Orange trees grow in a wild area at the edge of the landscaped areas, and the hedge apples fall on the street and are smashed by passing cars. To learn more click on all about the osage orange tree.
To read Paula’s beautiful post and see the gorgeous photos of the Devon hedgerows click on “our amazing hedges.” A video of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing “Don’t Fence Me In” is below the photograph of a partial hedgerow in my neighborhood. Beneath Bing Crosby is a video of ABBA singing “Don’t Fence Me In” on the Dick Cavett Show.
Sunflowers, goldenrod, dogwoods and other plants grow in the remnants of a hedgerow in my neighborhood.
Movie critic Robert Butler is excited about his assignment -- review the new sing along version of the movie "Mamma Mia!" My daughter and I hid out in the back, where we wouldn't make a spectacle of ourselves..
Robert Butler, The Kansas City Star’s movie critic, was a little dubious of the idea of a sing along version of “Mamma Mia!” when he showed up for the preview. He’d already seen the “regular” version. He’s warmed a lot of theater seats in his many years as a movie critic, so he has a right to be cynical.
I mostly showed up because my daughter offered me a free ticket to go with her. When your kids start to pay for things, you go! When I got there, I thought: “What the heck, tiaras, boas?” But it was fun! And I clapped. I couldn’t help myself.
My daughter “Lulu”and I were probably the only ones in the theater tonight who’d never seen any version of “Mamma Mia!” She’d gotten free tickets to a preview of the new sing-along version. “Wanna go?” she asked casually. Lulu was ready to pass the tickets along to a friend who’s “Mamma Mia!” crazy, if I said no.
I said, “Sure.” I had a little headache, but I don’t get a chance to hang out with her that much. She’s busy, and she has a boyfriend. Of course, on the way there, I put a crimp in the conversation when I found out she’d skipped a class.
“Why?” I asked in that certain tone only a mother seems to be able to create. She’s out of college, so it’s a class just for enhancement, but the old “never skip anything” in me came out. This led to a discussion about life, and my headache started to get worse. My own fault.
We thought we were getting to the theater early, but there was a long line of people waiting. We weren’t guaranteed a seat. But it was fun just standing in line with people bedecked in tiaras and feather boas, distributed at the theater. Soon a tiara was perched on my head, too. Luckily, there were seats for us. The movie was so much fun that I forgot all about my headache.
The lyrics on the screen were very helpful, since — unlike most people in the theater — I didn’t know the words. I didn’t sing out loud, and people who know my voice know why! There were plenty of great singers in the audience, including members of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, so they didn’t need to hear my froggy voice. Lulu said it seemed that the songs were written for the movie, not the other way around. ABBA disbanded before she was born, so it was all fresh to her. After the movie, my daughter and I both admitted we teared up a couple of times, including a scene between mother and daughter. “Particularly after what we talked about in the car,” she said. I’m available any time for another date!