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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Iowa State University: Facts and Myths Associated With Hedge Apples
- Hedgeapple: FAQ About Hedgeapples
- University of Wisconsin Extension: When Are Apples Ripe?
- University of California: Harvest & Postharvest
- National Gardening Association: Choosing Apple Varieties
- North Carolina State University Extension: Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Harvesting and Storing Apples
- Oregon State University Extension Service: How to Tell When Your Apples Are Ripe
- Oregon State University: About the Apple -- Malus Domestica
- Dave Wilson Nursery: McIntosh Apple