Breakfast for my neighbors

I fell asleep on the couch early last evening, during Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" trip to Liberia. I meant to watch his new trip to Rome, but I was a drowsy travel companion. That meant I was ready to catch the early bird's worm.

The sun was just sneaking down to the creek between the condo buildings when I started the second half of my loop. That's the slow half for photos and activating the senses.

Maybe I looked hungry, because a squirrel on the ground grabbed half an osage orange fruit in its mouth and ran up a tree. That's the equivalent of you or I grabbing a bed pillow in our mouth and running.

Half an osage orange is the size of a large toasted sesame bagel from Einstein Brothers with tomato/basil cream cheese. Maybe I was hungry. Or the fruit is the same size as a small grapefruit if you are dieting.

My dad called Osage oranges "horse-apples". We used to see them near Willow Creek in Pierce, Nebraska, when he took us wading. My dad didn't think horses really ate them.

The strange yellow-green globes were more common when we lived along a creek in Edmond, Oklahoma. I tried to cut one open, and ended up with a rubbery, caulky substance difficult to remove from my kitchen knife. That must have been in early summer, as the fruits come apart more easily this time of year.

Each time I walk along my North Texas creek I find signs that animals are eating the osage oranges. Some animals must pick them apart while they are still on the tree. Little bits of yellow come floating down. Others wait to nibble the fallen fruit.

My Visual Reference Guides : Trees book by Colin Ridsdale has proven again to be fairly useless beyond the pretty pictures. It states osage orange fruits, or "syncarps" can be 14 inches in diameter! A men's regulation basketball is 9.39 inches in diameter. Syncarp is correct. That's an aggregate or multiple fruit like a blackberry or pineapple. The yellow bits falling down look like pineapple snow. They would be the "drupes", the individual fruits packed tightly together in the syncarp.

In the early morning light the fruit bits look more green. And the glare I got from another squirrel when I stopped to photograph this one was pretty mean. Believe me, I didn't want his breakfast.

The squirrel didn't feel safe returning to nibble on the ground. As soon as I reached an acceptable distance, the squirrel raced to the nearest fruit like a football player trying to recover a fumble. It grabbed the fruit in its mouth and raced up the tree.

Osage orange trees have several other names:

  • Bois'd'arc, pronounced bodark.
  • Hedge-apple, more accurate than horse-apple, as the trees were used to make hedges on the prairie.
  • Bow-wood refers to Native Americans use of the wood for making bows.
  • Maclura pomifera
  • From now on I will call it the Squirrel Bagel tree.

According to Wikipedia, squirrels only tear the fruit apart to get the seeds. Also, the fruits are not poisonous to humans but would cause vomiting. And, interestingly, the fruits float. We can test that last bit of information in preschool next week.

As usual the Tree Notes blog has intriguing information on the subject of osage orange trees. The tree provides a very good firewood.

My breakfast was hashbrowns with fresh cilantro, mild salsa, a fried egg, corn tortillas with a black beans and pepper jack cheese, avocado, Greek yogurt, coffee, and orange juice. Don't tell the squirrel.

Have a lovely day, and eat more breakfasts.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

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