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Are Hedge Apples Toxic?

The large, yellowish-green hedge apple may smell bad and look rather ugly, but the grapefruit-sized fruits are not toxic to people or animals. While people can’t eat the rough-looking, large apples, they can be used for a variety of purposes.

Insect Repellant

Some people place hedge apples around the outside of their homes to repel insects, suggesting that the fruits may be harmful to insects. The fruits discourage crickets, cockroaches and spiders from overwintering in the house.

Skin Itching

The milky juice of the hedge apple’s stems and fruit can cause problems for people who handle the apples. The substance may cause an annoying irritation and redness of the skin. Wearing gloves when picking up the hedge apples can help prevent the problem.

Livestock

Studies show hedge apples are not poisonous to cattle, which is a good thing since the trees are often used to help keep livestock from escaping. The trees serve as a densely-packed fence line on farms and ranches. The hedge balls may prove deadly, though, if one gets stuck in the cow’s esophagus and prevents release of gas.

Pick Apples

The ideal time to pick cultivated apples (Malus domestica) is when they're mature, but not necessarily totally ripe. The climate is an important factor in the ripening of apples, but hands-on methods are best for knowing when to pick them. Totally ripe apples deteriorate quickly. Unless you want to eat the apples immediately, pick them when they are mature but not overly ripe. The season for picking apples typically ranges from summer to late fall. In McIntosh apples (Malus domestica "McIntosh") and hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7, the color around the stem lightens and then turns yellow when the apples are mature. Fruits are generally ripe and ready for harvesting during late summer. Some all-red apples are highly red weeks before they mature, so flesh color is a better indicator for these apples. ** A mature apple develops a sweet smell because the sugar content has increased.

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