Can You Eat Crab Apples? A Simple Guide To This Ornamental Fruit

Ed Wike
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What Is a Crabapple?

Crabapple trees are quite common in the United States. They are also highly popular ornamental trees that can be found in public parks throughout the country. They come in a wide range of sizes and colors, as well as shapes and foliage. Even though they are not usually eaten, crab apples are farm-fresh gifts kids love receiving.

Crab apples are exceptionally tart due to a higher acid content. They are so sour that most of them are considered inedible. However, crab apples are popular among some ethnic groups as a core ingredient for jams or pies.

Most crabapple trees are not as tall as orchard apples. In contrast, they are usually smaller, wider, and shorter.

In the middle of the tree, you will find a wide, spreading canopy. The trees also have an attractive flat shape, which is pleasing to the eyes. They come in a wide range of ornamental shapes and colors.

The fruit of the tree has a similar appearance to the actual crab. The pulp of the fruit ranges in color from a light white to deep red. When observing the berry from the side, you will notice that it is shaped like a cross.

Types of Crabapples

A couple of thousand years ago, Northern and Siberian apple trees crossed on their way to Asia. The result is what we now call the crabapple.

The flower of most varieties of the crabapple takes the shape of a funnel or a vase. This flower usually comes in white or pink and it may be in a solitary or multi-blossom arrangement.

Most crabapple trees have a smooth and light-colored bark. Some varieties, known as white birches, may be marked by deep fissures in the bark.

The flowers are usually in shades of white, pink, or red. The species usually has greenish or yellowish-green leaves that may turn yellow starting in late summer and into the fall months.

Are Crab Apples Edible?

Crab apples are ornamental trees that originally began as wild trees and have been tamed for multiple thousand years. These lush and beautiful plants originated in China and are believed to be native to central Asia and northern Iran. These trees range in size from 12 to 20 feet and are highly decorative during the fall months. Their leaves turn a gorgeous array of golden red, yellow and orange shades. Crab apples can be grown in many locations including yards with average soil conditions. Like many fruit trees, they prefer full sun to partial shade. Crab apples also like moist soil and grow best when the soil is moist for about half of the year.

If you try to eat the apples of a crab apple tree, you'll probably be disappointed. Crab apple trees bear apples that are almost completely inedible due to their pucker effect, high tannin levels and sour flavors. Even the seeds of the crab apple tree are inedible.

These apples are attractive to birds; however, so many of them are left on the ground when the birds are done with them. The birds, however, are not willing to share their bounty.

Planting a crab apple tree will add a touch of elegance to your garden, but it will not provide an edible fruit. There are many trees that will bring tasty fruit right to your door, so why not plant some!

What do Crabapples Taste Like?

Crabapples, or Malus’ purpurea, are small, round, bright red fruits that are commonly known as “crab”apples. The name derives from the 17th century “crab apple,” which was considered to resemble the crustacean. Many crabapples are also much larger than regular apples, hence the name. Crabapples can be eaten raw, however they are often more bitter than regular apples. Many people say wild crabapples taste much better than the cultivated variety, but I’ve never tried a crabapple myself.

Crabapple trees make great ornamental fruit trees and are often planted to attract birds. Crabapples are cold hardy trees and can be grown in almost any area of the United States. The fruit of the crabapple blooms before the leaves and is usually pollinated by the bees early in spring. Most crabapples are a good source of vitamin C; a dozen crabapples have 100 mg of vitamin C, which is as much as eight oranges.

Are Crabapples Toxic?

Beautifully ornamental trees are a common sight when you live in areas of the country with hard winters. The first sign of spring, they appear in glorious colors of white, red, pink and more. Along with their vibrant display comes a bounty of fruit. Crabapples, as they are commonly known, are one of the best parts about the appearance of these otherwise non-fruit bearing trees.

Very few people who are unfamiliar with crab apples would think to eat them. The only reason why they are worth mentioning here is because of their name. These trees are not named for their crabby behavior but rather for their fruit.

Crabapples are not apples at all. They are small, sweet fruits that are produced by many ornamental trees that people have planted in their yards.

Trees that produce edible apples normally need to be grown in order to bear fruit. The few varieties that sprout from wild trees are not worth anyone’s time. Crab apples are no different. The difference between the wild and the cultivated varieties is that their production is a lot more intentional. Crabapple trees are cultivated only for their ornamental value. They are a fine addition to any yard but are not to be mistaken for fruit trees.

What About Side Effects?

Most people can eat crab apples safely. These fruits have a gritty texture due to the abundance of small seeds and hard bits. They are sometimes used for medicinal purposes, but this is not recommended, as there are better alternatives. They are popular because they are a decorative fruit and they have a nice taste.

Eating crab apples should have no side effects. People with weak immune systems or stomach ulcers may feel some discomfort, but if they feel pain or any other symptoms, they must seek professional medical help. If you eat crab apples regularly, you may cause some damage to your esophagus or stomach. You should also avoid touching crab apples with your hands. This is because the plants from which these fruits came have poisonous leaves, stems, and seeds.

No one has died from eating crab apples, but they contain a fair amount of cyanide. You should not eat them in large amounts on an empty stomach. They are also not recommended for children.

Are They Safe for Pets?

Crab apples can also be used medicinally or in food rather than choosing crab apple trees for their ornamental effect. The fruit is delicious and can be used in a myriad of ways.

However, these fruits should not be eaten by humans and animals in large amounts without preservatives. The fruit is extremely sour, which makes it perfect for cooking, but not for eating fresh.

Generally, the fruit of the tree is inedible and not recommended for consumption. Because of its high acid content the fruit isn’t typically eaten by humans, and it is toxic in large amounts.

The seed of the fruit is small, and it can grow into a tree, but there aren’t any characteristics of the crab apple tree that make it a particularly appealing choice for planting.

Recommendations for experimenting with crab apples include finding a recipe for the use of crab apples that the family members enjoy so that they can be used in other ways.

This is an interesting experiment that the family can partake in, and the apples can be used to cook delicious desserts, make jelly, or even eaten plain.

However, the fruit should not be fed to the family pet. The fruit is toxic and can cause kidney and other health problems if the dog eats it in large amounts.

Final Thoughts on Eating Crabapples

Nowadays, there are differing views on the topic of crabapples and whether or not they are edible. Some people say that the fruit is not tasty enough to be worth it, while others maintain the benefits of crabapple fruit over regular apples.

The main benefit is the taste, but the fruit is also said to have health benefits as well. Eating crab apples helps avoid allergic reaction to regular apples.

So how would you go about eating crab apples in your garden or orchard? Are they worth the effort?

Well, you will need to have a large natural healthy tree to get the most fruit.

You would then pick the fruit when they are ready to be picked.

All crabapples are edible, even the ones with the golden color. The golden color crabapples taste sweeter than others, but they also have less of the health benefits.

You can eat crab apples right away or later on.

You can eat crab apples whole or make them into jams and jellies. Eat them plain, or add them into a salad.

You can even freeze crab apples and eat them as a side dish throughout the winter months.

What you need to remember is that crab apples do not have any sugar in them. As a result, they have a tart taste and are best eaten when you have no sweet fruit available.

How to Use Crabapples

Crabapples are easy to recognize. They have a red color. Their leaves have serrated edges. And they thrive in temperate conditions.

While they are smaller than full-sized apples and have unremarkable flavor, there are uses for them. Just check out a few ways you can use them and you'll see that even the smallest of people can make a difference!

Saving the World with Apple Peel

Here's something for you to consider: scraps from your homemade applesauce can be added to your compost to help encourage worms.

We are not encouraging you to toss out any type of food scraps, but if you want to use all that peeling from your kitchen, this is a good way to do it….

Use the crabapples as compost!

That's right, if you have the room outside, these apples are great to throw in with the worms.

Stopping Erosion

Nature will redistribute the land on its own, and sometimes it doesn't do a very good job of it.

Throw some of those pretty red crabapples under the snow to act as an erosion control; they'll stay in place until plowed.

You can also use them around the roots of trees and shrubs to keep water from eroding the root zone.

Crabapple Jellies

Crabapple jelly is an old-fashioned, delicate jelly that is great as a condiment on a sandwich, with cream cheese, peanut butter or on toast. They are also fantastic in jams and can be used in baking and cooking. This wonderful fruit has a rich history of being used in folk remedies and makes an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

If you are looking for a jelly that is not too sweet and very fruity, then crabapple jelly is the perfect choice. There is no better way to preserve the delicate flavor of a fresh crabapple than making crabapple jelly. It is also a delicious way to use this fruit. Crabapple jelly is great for filling your pantry with homemade produce, and it also makes a wonderful Christmas gift or hostess gift.

Crabapple jelly is very easy to make. Here is how you can do it:

Pickling Crabapples

In the fall, crabapples are picked and sold as a fruit, mostly for decorating. While crabapples, like apples, can be made into jellies, jams, compotes, pies and tarts, at their core, crabapples are a decorative fruit.

And their decorative use runs the gamut.

Some people use crabapples in arrangements. Some people are employed exclusively to go out and gather them.

The bottom line is, crabapples are generally pleasant looking. They are not the most vibrant red, yellow, or orange.

Rather, crabapples give off a soft, muted, sophisticated kind of glow in autumn. If you need to illuminate your front door for the holidays, crabapples will help you do just that.

But do they provide any value in a culinary sense?

The short answer is yes.

Because they are not as sweet as most apples, crabapples are often used in preserves and sauces.

If you're really into crabapples, you can do something with them that few people have ever thought of: Make a jellied crabapple cake.

Crabapple Sauces

Crabapples are not just to be a decoration for your garden. Their flavor and firm texture are surprisingly great! Give it a try in your crabapple sauce:

  • Ingredients
  • 5 pounds of crabapples
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of whole allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • Procedure

Wash the crabapples and remove the stems, leaves, cores, and blossom parts. Add all the ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat for about an hour or until the crab apples are tender but still firm. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Strain through a colander and store the liquid in a container for later. Let the crabapples cool then store in a food-safe container with a refrigerated. Will keep for about two weeks. Available as applesauce, a dessert topping, or base for a glaze.

Crabapple Butter

Tart fruits that are not perfect for eating make great butterfly attractor plants. All sorts of gardeners love this group because these fruits look beautiful and they’re fun to watch.

Unripe crabapples are even more attractive to butterflies. They are in a midway stage between the green fruits that will become red when fully ripe. If you have an area in your butterfly garden that will remain in this state of growth (not blooming, just growing), crabapples are a perfect butterfly attractor.

Ripe crabapples are much safer. The sugars contained in the fruit change the scent. It is not a perfect aroma for the butterfly to find food.

Crabapple Jams

If you have access to crabapples, you should consider adding them to your list of garden projects. Although you may be unfamiliar with crabapples, you can use them to make sure that you will have plenty of delicious fruit to use during summer and harvest time.

When you purchase your crabapples, you may notice that the apple varieties often look different than the common varieties of apples they are used to seeing at the grocery store. This is because crabapples are actually a different species of apples. While this might seem like a drawback, crabapples can be used by making them into jams and refreshing beverages. You can turn them into jellies and cakes, or you can even turn them into applesauce. Crabapples' tart taste makes them the ideal centerpiece of many delicious fruits.