Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Been An Age!

We were driving back from our Sunday movie (Religulous - Bill Maher's recent effort that equally offends all religions...) and Melinda was taking me on some roads new to me. On a stretch of Army Trail Road about 5 miles east of us, we saw a puddle of green fruit that took me back nearly 40 years! They were Osage Oranges from the tree of the same name, and while knowing exactly what they were, I hadn't seen any since growing up on our farm near Grand Mound, Iowa. At that time, we had I think one or two trees, shrubs, really, that grew along a fence line in the middle of one of our fields. I recalled even then what strange-looking fruit they had, but I recalled their name and stored it away. It was made easier by the fact that there is a county and city named Osage in Iowa, but named for the Indian tribe.

A little Google research showed that the trees are native to the area near the intersection of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, but they've been planted all over the continental US. Because of their insect resistance and thorny brush, they were planted before the advent of barbed wire to restrict livestock. The fine-grained hardwood was also prized for the making of bows. No known use for the unusual looking fruit, however.

I went back and rescued a couple fruit for closer examination on Monday. They have a unique, not unpleasant odor, and exude a sticky liquid when the skin is punctured. They are considerably heavier than apples, and when sliced open, have an interesting radial structure. It is said that squirrels love them, but so far, after a day of sitting out, our population is ignoring them. It was certainly interesting how something like that sticks in your head after decades of sitting there unused.

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