This is one age-old question that even your grandparents and their grandparents before them asked themselves. A few misconceptions and beliefs have developed here and there regarding crab apples. Among them is that they are poisonous, but really?
As gardeners, we are conscious of the benefits of crab apple trees. They are among the hardworking varieties that draw in pollinators from all over. This means that your plants’ fruiting prospects are enhanced – this can only be good.
And the simple answer to the question whether they can be eaten, yes!
And where do they come from?
It is believed that these miniature apples come from Kazakhstan and have been around for a considerable amount of time – actually, about six centuries. You might think that they are the tasty lot just from how they look – fleshy, delicious-looking fruit – they are actually sour. But you will also find delicious crabapple fruits that you can eat right from the tree.
But apart from their crisp taste, these fruits are quite harmless – they might, however, give you a sour stomach if you take several. And like the typical apples, their seeds have toxins. But this should not worry you as you would have to eat a significant number of seeds for them to have any noticeable impact.
As earlier mentioned, crabapples are not cultivated for their fruit, at least for the majority of them – many people just spit them out on the first bite! Some gardeners just love them for the effect they have on their plant’s ecosystem. But don’t be quick to dismiss these fruits. The larger crabapples are good in jam making.
The Different Types of Crabapples
The main difference between crabapples is generally ornamental and among the most common includes Dolgo. Dolgo can grow as high as 30 feet with fruits that can entirely be edible, and bigger too. It is popular among landscapers for its resilience against particular diseases that affect the variety. They have characteristic white flowers during spring that should add a certain level of appeal to your piece of garden.
Hopa Flowering Crab produces pink-rose flowers and can go as high as 25 feet. However, this variety of crabapple tree is susceptible to diseases – which are unlike Dolgo.
For those that love shorter trees, then Whitney Flowering Crab may be a perfect choice for them – they are just 16 feet tall on maturity. Their white and pink flowers are a darling to the birds and its fruits, unusually sweet. The fruit is good for pickling, and canning.
Another variety is Centennial Crabapple and at approximately eight feet is quite the dwarf. Its fruits are good for apple butter, jelly, and spicing. You can also enjoy them straight from the tree.
Pink Spires Flowering Crab is one crabapple variety with a characteristic bigger array of colors making it a fantastic ornamental tree. The crabapples’ red, yellow and bronze-green flowers make up for its poor fruits.
Are Crabapples toxic in any way?
Crabapples and the ordinary apples belong to the same family. While the fleshy part is generally nontoxic, their seeds are a cause for concern – the same applies to the ordinary apples. The seeds have cyanogenic glycosides – a potentially fatal form of cyanide.
However, that should not worry you too much if you are not the kind of person that eats the core – the center part with the seeds. Even if you do, it is unlikely that you chew on the seeds. For the cyanide to have any effect, you would have to eat a lot of seeds, grinding them with your teeth and swallowing – who does that anyway?
What about their effects on the Pets?
Pets and crabapples in your homestead are a bad combination. Pet owners have a reason to worry as the trees pose a danger to the animals. Those that consume a few of these apples may show signs of discomfort. This includes other parts of the trees such as leaves, stems, and roots.
The cats rarely consume enough plant matter to really be affected – these are naturally meat eaters, the carnivores. But your dog can be something else, altogether. If they like the taste of crabapples, then they are most likely to eat a significant amount of them. Sadly, they may not stop with the fruits, they can go as far as the leaves and stem – an unfortunate affair. So it’s best to keep an eye on them when outdoors.
Your domestic herbivores – vegetation eaters – are, however, another matter. The cows, goats, and sheep can eat a large number of these apples, chewing everything and in turn, showing signs of toxicity.
What can you do?
If you are the type of person that worries a lot – you can use a knife to scoop off the seed part. The remaining fleshy part should be safe to ingest. Remember that the stems and leaves may have traces of cyanide, and so you must remove them too – of course, you will not be chewing on the leaves and the stem, but it is good to take precautions.
How to use Crabapples
The sour taste comes from their unusually high content level of acid and pectin. This actually makes these fruits ideal for fruit jam making. Think how much good they are when paired with berries – yes, a well-rounded flavor.
The traditional jelly prepared from crabapple can actually be prepped up with one or two chilies to make the perfect tart for your meat dish – yummy!
For the fruit wine lovers, you can civilize crabapples by suffusing with gin or vodka and adding to sugar for a few months and serving to a rich and unique taste. The resulting beverage will have the fantastic aroma of crabapples and the perfect hue to make your evening complete – it’s the little pleasures in life.
Then there is also crabapple butter. Ah! That lovely pink color and tart taste that adds something extra to the old bland butter.
And to sum it up, don’t get too worried when your kids go picking crabapples the next time you are visiting the grandpa. They are as harmless as the bananas but with quite the taste – you know what I mean!