Throughout the United States, flowering crabapples can be seen in almost every landscape. These blossoming trees are treasured and cherished. However, their fruits, the crabapples, are nowhere near well-known.
Be it due to the surrounding skepticism or due to the tree’s ornamental status, crabapples are thought to be toxic. As a matter of fact, the fruit is sour, but can you eat crabapples safely?
This article will discuss crabapples in detail and let you know if crabapples are indeed edible.
Read on to find out more!
What Are Crabapples?
Botanically classified under the Malus species, crabapples are fruits that naturally grow less than 2 inches in diameter. Crabapples may have different appearances based on the variety, but usually they have an orange, red, or yellow shade upon maturation.
The flowers, leaves, etc. also vary depending on the variety. In other words, the term “crabapples” is more of a reference to their size than anything else. In contrast to regular apples, crabapples are smaller and relatively sour. Sometimes, they are also called miniature apples.
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Types of Crabapples
There are a number of crabapple species that exist in nature. These vary on the basis of tree height, flower types, the fruit, etc. Here are 8 best kinds of crabapple trees:
A Brandywine tree is one of the most spectacular crabapple varieties. In the blooming season, it is full of rich pink blooms that have a delightful scent. The fruits are large, yellow-green, and perfect for making jelly.
It can grow up to 20 feet tall and grows in colder zones. Specifically, zones 4 through 9 are considered ideal for this kind.
Bearing 1-inch tart crabapples, the Dolgo type is known for its bright red fruit and white flowers. This is a dwarf tree type, growing up to around 11 feet in height. Along with its delicious fruit, this type does an excellent job at aiding pollination too.
Dolgo crabapples are best for making sauces, sorbets, chutneys, or even condiments.
- Purple Prince
The purple prince type is a small and rounded tree with brilliant spring blooms. The foliage is purplish bronze and the fruits are rosy red. On top of everything, the tree is fast-growing, highly resistant to diseases, and low maintenance.
It is best suited to plantation zone 4 and can have a height of around 20 feet.
With consistently superior ratings, this one produces outstanding fruit in terms of quality and quantity. During the blooming season in spring, the red buds of the tree blossom into white flowers. The fruits may be orange to red in color.
Sunny weather and sandy or clayey soils are the ideal conditions for the Adirondack type.
The prairiefire kind blooms all year round, being an incredible visual display and fruit producer. The tree features dark purplish-red fruit, rich pink flowers, and purple leaves with dark green overcast.
It also offers great disease resistance and tolerance to drought-like conditions. These can be cultivated conveniently in well-drained soils but can survive in clay soils too.
The snowdrift is another kind that is upright and broad-rounded deciduous. Its red buds blossom in late spring to pure white flowers. The leaves turn yellow in fall and the tree fruits in late winter.
Owing to its compact size, this one is great for almost any landscape.
Louisa is a noteworthy variety as it is weeping and has red buds that burst into pink flowers. A mature tree can be anywhere around 12 to 15 feet tall and as much wide.
Favorable conditions include full sun, well-drained and acidic loamy soils, and moderate moisture.
- Sweet Crabapple
Also called the Malus coronaria and garland crab, this species is believed to be a hybrid. They usually are dwarf with short trunks and stout branches.
The leaves have a unique shade pattern – yellow-green at the top and paler at the bottom. The flowers are largely pink or white with seeded fruits.
Can You Eat Crabapples?
Now onto the main question, is it safe and can you eat crabapples? The answer is yes. Regardless of the variety, crabapples are safe for human consumption.
The fruit itself and its flesh are not toxic for humans. Yet, like regular apples, you should definitely not chew their seeds. The seeds contain a compound that produces cyanide as a by-product upon breakdown.
This cyanide is lethal, when present in abnormally high amounts.
The same compound is found in the tree’s stems and leaves. Hence, they should be avoided as well.
In short, devour the tree’s fruits, but not its seeds, stems, or leaves and you should be good to go!
How are Crabapples grown?
Crabapples are fairly easy to plant and take care of. You just need to make sure that they get enough sun, water, and fertilizers. However, their requirements vary with the species.
Usually, crabapples are grown from seedlings bought from a local nursery or online. However, if you wish to propagate crabapples, there are a few methods.
These include seeds, grafting, cutting suckers, stem cuttings, tissue culture, and budding. The chosen method should again depend on the tree variety.
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Here are some general geographical conditions for growing crabapples:
People living in the hardiness zones between 4 and 8 can grow crabapples without any difficulties. Nonetheless, any sudden weather fluctuations like early or late frosts, heat waves, or excessive rainfall can be detrimental to the tree’s health.
The preferable time for crabapple plantation is early spring. This is when the ground will be least likely to be frozen. In the early days, the tree needs time to adjust and thus, temperatures should be well above freezing.
Crabapples don’t have an affinity towards a particular soil but they grow well in rich and well-drained soils. The pH of the soil should be from 6 to 7. In any case, it is suggested to add organic soil amendments to boost root development.
Remember to test the soil before planting. This is because any harmful metals or industrial chemicals can make their way into the fruit.
These trees require ample sunlight. Ideally, the tree should get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight for decent blooming and fruiting. If there will be other trees planted near, ensure enough distance between them.
- Rainfall & Watering
Crabapple trees may be susceptible to root rot to some extent. Hence, they should be protected with tarp or appropriate barriers if excessive rainfall occurs.
These trees usually don’t need extra watering. In case there are intense drought-like conditions, give the trees a deep watering at the base once a week.
Pro Tip: Plant crabapples near orchard apples; they are great companions and boost pollination.
Taking Care of Crabapples
Once the trees are planted, all that is left to be done is the application of fertilizer and pruning.
Normally, crabapples (or apples, in general) don’t require heavy fertilizer. To enrich the soil of its lost nutrients, an organic fertilizer may be applied.
Homemade compost or farmyard manure will also work when added in spring and fall respectively. Natural mulch will also aid nutrient retention and weed control.
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Moderate pruning will benefit the trees to a great extent. This will prompt growth and allow air circulation.
To trim new growth or sprouts, it is best to wait until after the blooming season. Similarly, larger branches should be pruned in late autumn with a pruning saw.
How to Eat Crabapples?
When your crabapple tree finally starts bearing fruit, you may want to pluck and eat it straight from the tree. Even though most of the varieties will provide fruits that you can directly bite into, we suggest checking it first. It is because there are high chances the fruit is too sour or tart.
Wondering how else you could use these fruits? Don’t worry, here are some ways to do just that:
- Crabapple Juice: One of the best ways to utilize crabapples and their sour taste is to extract their juice. This can be frozen and stored for long periods.
- Crabapple Jam: People who can’t go without a decent English breakfast will love the new addition of this crabapple jam. It will be a healthier alternative with less sugar content and calories.
- Crabapple Puree: Similar to extracting juice, preparing puree or sauce is a great idea as well. This will enhance the taste of any homemade dish.
- Crabapple Jelly: If yours is a house with kids, you might want to make some jelly for them. Not only would it put those crabapples to some good use, it would also be a healthy treat for your kids.
- Crabapple Pickles: What better way to take advantage of the excessive malic acid in the fruits than to pickle them? A crabapple pickle will also be a unique and flavorful delicacy.
- Crabapple Butter: When making the usual apple butter, add a few tablespoons of crabapple extract. This will give it a subtle pink hue and a tangy taste.
Crabapples, as discussed earlier, are safe to eat. Even though the fruit itself and its flesh are both edible, the fruit’s seeds may cause a problem.
This is because the seeds contain certain compounds called cyanogenic glycosides. The most common compound is amygdalin which, on metabolism, produces a highly poisonous cyanide compound. If this cyanide is present in high amounts, it can lead to sudden death.
However, this scenario is quite unlikely to happen. Firstly, the amygdalin can be made available only if the seeds are thoroughly chewed. Therefore, if you accidentally swallow a seed, it won’t cause any issues.
Secondly, this cyanide has to be present in considerable amounts to be toxic. This means that eating more than about 150 crabapple seeds will have severe side effects.
Similarly, the stems and the leaves should not be consumed as well for they contain cyanide-producing compounds too.
Crabapples cannot be stored in the open for long because enzymatic reactions cause browning quickly. However, crabapples and their cooked products like crabapple jam, puree, and juices can be frozen and stored for a long period. This way, they will be preserved well.
It is important to know that these fruits can easily pick up off-flavors while they are kept in storage. They can also be affected by refrigerator odors. Hence, it is recommended to always store them in cookie sheets, plastic bags, or freezer ziplock bags. The puree and juices should be stored in airtight containers.
If you plan on freezing the fruits entirely, don’t forget to rinse them well, remove their stems, and blossom ends before doing so.
Uses & Health Benefits of Crabapples
Crabapples have numerous health benefits and uses. Here are a few:
- They are an excellent source of vitamin C which aids the body’s immune system.
- These fruits also contain a significant amount of vitamin D, which prevents high blood pressure issues, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
- Crabapples contain strong digestive agents and are hence consumed to treat digestive disorders.
- Ripe crabapples are known to regulate diseases like piles and diarrhea.
- The fruit also shows astringency and laxative properties. Moreover, the fruit pulp helps to reduce inflammation and heal wounds faster.
- The leaves of the crabapple tree are dried and ground to form a powder. Intake of this powder helps people who have infertility issues.
- The fruit is rich in iron as well, boosting endurance in athletes and general health in pregnant women.
- Crabapples help in the prevention of scurvy, heart diseases, bone diseases, Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), and premature aging too.
- Crabapples have several culinary uses too. They can be used to make crabapple jellies, fruit leather, juices, fruit butter, candies, and so on.
- The bark of the crabapple tree is used to create a dye that may have shades ranging from red to yellow.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between apples and Crabapples?
The main difference between apples and crabapples is the size. A crabapple has a diameter of 2 inches or less and apples usually are more than 2 inches in diameter.
Can you eat Crabapples raw?
Yes. It is definitely possible to eat Crabapples raw. You can also add them to salads or smoothies. Sometimes, they may be too tartish or sour to eat raw. Therefore, it is advisable to cook them before eating.
When should I pick my Crabapples?
A crab apple tree fruits in the months of October to early November. This is also when the fruits will ripen naturally. Hence, pick the crabapples as soon as they ripen and assume their full color.
Are crabapples poisonous to dogs?
Yes. Dogs can get severe nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, etc. if they consume crabapples, or the plant’s leaves, stems, or flowers. The sickness depends on the size of your dog, variety, and seasonality of the crabapples as well.
Can you make cider vinegar from crabapples?
Crabapples, in their original form, cannot produce good cider on their own. However, you can add their extract to other apples’ mixture to add extra tannin.
Can You Eat Crabapples?: The Verdict
In conclusion, crabapples have long had the market reputation of being ornamental fruits. The tree is extremely popular for its visually enchanting blossoms in the spring. For this reason, the fruit and its benefits are often overlooked.
Certain myths surrounding the fruit also discourage people from relishing it. So can you eat crabapples? Yes! Crabapples are indeed edible. However, it is still advisable to abstain from consuming its stem, leaves, or seeds.
We hope that this article provided valuable insight on crabapples and that you’ll now eat crabapples without worrying about any potential side effects.
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