Also known as hedge apple, horse apple, bowwood, bois d'ark and by at least one unmentionable name, the osage orange is a member of the mulberry family that goes by the Latin name Maclura pomifera. The tree itself is used in hedgerows, and for making bows and other items. The strange, brain-like fruit is inedible for people, but does have a number of traditional uses.
Osage oranges have a white sticky sap which causes dermatitis in some people. According to the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," this sap has been used as a glue and a lacquer.
According to the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," the osage orange is used as a natural insect repellent. People place the oranges in a variety of locations, such as behind furniture and inside cupboards, to repel insects from the house. The Royal Society of Chemistry has determined the osage orange "contained two isoflavones, osajin and pomiferin," are repellent to German cockroaches and maize weevils.
Osajin and pomiferin, the same isoflavones found to repel insects are also powerful antioxidants. According to a study published in the "Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry," these antioxidants are comparable to vitamin C and vitamin E in their ability to fight the oxidative stress that contributes to cancer and a variety of other diseases. These antioxidants can be extracted from osage oranges for use in health supplements.
The seeds of the osage orange are the only part edible by humans. According to chemist John R. Clopton, in an article published in the "Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society," they are "very tasty, especially after roasting and salting."