Can you eat crab apples from tree

Can you eat crab apples? We get to the bottom of this crazy fruit

When are crab apples ripe?

You might want to try harvesting crab apples and using them but you don’t know when they should be picked. A good rule of thumb is to start looking at them closely in the autumn, as all fruits tend to ripen at this time of year.

Crab apples are very similar to eating or cooking apples in that all the signs that show an eating apple is ripe are present in a crab apple.

Some apples turn red when they ripen while others will go yellow or even orange. If you’re still not sure the fruit is ok to pick, then take one and cut it in half. If the seeds are brown then the fruit is ripe and you can go ahead and harvest all your crab apples.

You can also test the ripeness of your fruit by squeezing them gently. A ripe apple will be slightly squashy.

There are so many varieties of crab apple it is hard to give an exact time of year they will be ready to harvest. But if you start to look at your tree at the end of August you should start to notice some subtle signs the apples are getting ready.

Some will take longer than others and it is worth being patient to make sure you have the tastiest fruit when you finally pick them!


So can you eat crab apples? The answer is yes. They won’t taste like the ordinary apples we have become used to as these have been changed and manipulated over the years to create the sweet taste we are used to.

It depends on what type of tree it is as some are better for eating than others but none of them will poison you.

Some crab apples are better to cook and make into sauces, chutney or cider rather than eating them straight from the tree but if you aren’t bothered by their tartness you can pick and eat as many as you like.

Make sure to choose your plant wisely if you want to eat it, plant it in a sunny, sheltered spot and care for it by pruning it around once a year.

If you’ve found this article helpful, or you have any more questions about eating crab apples, please comment below.​

Can You Eat Crabapples?

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Yes you can eat crabapples, although they have a very sharp, bitter taste if you were to eat them raw and if you ate too many of them they would cause you to have an upset stomach, but they would not poison you.

Cooking Crabapples

Crabapples are best cooked before they are eaten. They contain very high amounts of pectin, tannins and acetic acid which cause them to have a bitter taste but also these attributes make them perfect for roasting or creating jams and jellies as they soilidfy well and have a strong apple, tangy, tart flavour.

Crabapple Origins

The crabapple tree is an ancestor of the cultivated eating apple tree and has over 6000 different varieties. They are known as an ornamental fruit tree as they are used more for their appearance than for eating. They are widely populated throughout Europe and some varieties can live to over 100 years old and grow to heights of over 10 meters tall.

Crabapple Appearance

The trees appear irregular in shape and have a wide low hanging canopy, they have a brown silvery bank which gets very knarled as the tree ages. The short branches develop twigs and the brown, pointed leaf buds have a soft hair on the underside. The deciduous leaves are just over 2″ in length and are oval in shape with a jagged edge around the outside.

Crabapple Pollination

The crabapple tree is pollinated in early spring by bees which are attracted to their perfumed flower petals. The crabapple tree is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae) and provides food through its flowers for bees, its leaves for moths and through its fruit for birds, badgers, foxes and rabbits. Many crabapple trees are planted in commercial orchards as they attract pollinating bees early in the season.

Crabapple Wood

Crabapple wood is very suitable for carving and turning, and the chips produced from the wood can be used to produce a beautiful smoke for flavouring many meats, cheeses and fish. The firewood from the crabapple tree produces a high heat, slow burning fire which is great for campfires or other outdoor cooking events. A yellow dye can be extracted from the crabapple tree and used to dye wool used in clothing.

Crabapple Types

There over twenty five different types of crabapple tree in North America. They are used by many landscapers to brighten up a dark or dull area as they produce a vibrant blosson in spring and many types have a red fruit which helps to add colour to dull environments.

Many crabapple trees in North America take their name from a specific region in which they grow fro example:

The Southern crabapple tree, which grows in Virginia, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas can grow to over 30 feet high with a trunk thickness of over 1 foot in diameter, it has a distintive sharp taste and the apples are only 1″ in diameter.

I hope you found this article helpful- please leave a comment if you would like me to write something you have an interest in…thanks.

As a child, you were likely told more than once to avoid eating crabapples. Why? There’s a common misconception that crabapples are toxic.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While crabapples do have a bitter taste and there are small amounts of cyanide in the seeds, they are more than safe to eat.

Are Crabapples Edible?

If you find yourself staring at the tantalizing fruits hanging from your backyard crabapple tree, wondering whether crabapples are edible, wonder no more. The short answer to this question is yes – it is more than safe to eat crabapples from any kind of crabapple tree.

Yes! Crabapples are edible, however, they may not always be tasty. Because crabapples are essentially just immature apples, they have a wide variety of flavors and may not always be palatable. Rest easy, however, knowing that you will not get sick from eating fruit from your crabapple tree.

What are Crabapples?

Crabapples aren’t their own distinct kind of tree. They are just a different size. Here’s an easy to follow tip – if a tree produces fruits smaller than two inches, it is a crabapple tree. If it produces fruits larger than two inches, it is an apple. That’s all there is to it!

The confusion lies in the fact that apples that were bred to be larger were also usually bred to be better-tasting. There are multiple varieties of ornamental crabapples that were bred especially to produce attractive flowers, meaning those fruits aren’t particularly great to eat.

In any case, eating crabapples won’t make you sick – but they might not be super tasty. The exact taste will vary depending on the kind of tree you plant, with some varieties of crabapples producing fruits that taste great even when consumed raw. Others will be extremely sour.

Ornamental vs Edible Crabapples

Apple trees have been cultivated for many thousands of years, with the domestic apple originating in Kazakhstan. This cultivar has been around for over 6,000 years, but apples were also eaten in steady supply by the Romans, Greeks, and Scandinavians.

Today’s domestic apples are large, sweet, and supple, with multiple varieties available including Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady. All varieties of apples were hybridized from two basic originals: Red and Golden Delicious.

Crabapples, as previously mentioned, can occur on any of these varieties. They are a reference to size and nothing else.

There are some types of crabapple trees that produce tastier fruits than others. For example, Centennial and Dolgo crabapples produce tasty fruits that you can eat fresh off the tree. However, other kinds of crabapples, like Chestnut and Whitney, should be saved for baking into pieces, butters, preserves, or sauces.

Some crabapple trees are prized more for their decorative, ornamental quality than their ability to be eaten. Here are some popular crabapple trees that you might consider growing on your property.


This apple tree grows to about 35 feet in height and is prized for its ornamental and edible qualities. Most people prepare the apples from this tree in sauces, jellies, and ciders. These apples can also be eaten fresh. It is very resistant to certain diseases, like scab, making it a great choice for landscaping as it produces gorgeous white flowers and yellow leaves in the fall.

Centennial Crabapple

This dwarf tree is a good choice, growing up to eight feet in height in most cases. It produces delicious fruits that are great for eating raw or cooking in jellies or butters.

Chestnut Crabapple

The chestnut crabapple tolerates cold and produces a sweet, nutty fruit. This tree is a great pollinator, and holds up well to being cooked in sauces, jams, and other dishes.

Hopa Flowering Crab

This tree produces gorgeous pink flowers with white centers. It is a bit more vulnerable to disease than some other varieties of crabapple trees, but it’s incredibly tough and designed for growing in Zone 2A. It grows to a whopping 25 feet in height.

Whitney Flowering Crab

This is a shorter tree that only reaches about sixteen feet maximum. It produces lovely white and pink flowers that attract birds and other pollinators, but it can also self-pollinate. You can eat the fruits directly of this tree or you can use them in canning or other kinds of preservation, too.

Pink Spires Flowering Crab

The Pink Spires Flowering Crab is a narrow tree that makes it ideal for smaller chunks of property. It grows to about fifteen feet tall and planting one is a great way to attract birds and other pollinating visitors to your land.

This tree displays multiple colors in the fall, including red and yellow. It is definitely more of an ornamental tree than an edible one – this fruit doesn’t even hold up well when cooked into jams.

Where are Crabapples Found?

Crabapples are found all over the world but prefer to grow in mild areas of the northern hemisphere. You can find them in the temperature areas of North America, where they were introduced in the 1700s, as well as in countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, and China.

What are the Health Benefits of Crabapples?

Eating crabapples offers all the same health benefits as eating regular apples. These fruits are highly valued for their diverse nutritional profile. You can get a ton of nutrients by eating these tasty fruits. In particular, crabapples contain the following vitamins and minerals:

Calcium Copper
Iron Malic acid
Niacin Phosphorus
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Riboflavin Tannis
Vitamin A Vitamin C
Amino acids Citric acid
Flavonoids Karyotin
Magnesium Manganese
Pectin Potassium
Sodium Thiamin
Vitamin B12

What’s interesting is that crabapples actually have a variety of medicinal benefits. Although eating too many of these delicious fruits can cause digestive upsets, counterintuitively that can also be used to treat tummy troubles, too.

Ripe crabapples have powerful digestive agents to help speed up digestion, helping to relieve conditions like diarrhea and stomachaches

Even the bark of the tree can be used to improve your health. You can grind it into a powder and consume it to reduce bile production, often associated with conditions like acid reflux. This miracle plant can also improve hiccups and throat diseases, too.

Crabapples contain high levels of vitamin A, so there is evidence to suggest that a diet that includes regular consumption of crabapples can reduce your risk of prostate cancer and fight premature aging. They can also improve your ocular health.

Because crabapples have so many vitamins and minerals, your immune system will benefit, too. These fruits are a fantastic source of vitamin C and also have a tremendous amount of iron. This can be particularly helpful to women, in particular, pregnant women, as well as athletes.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Eating Crabapples?

Crabapples are not toxic, but like all other apples, the seeds do contain cyanogenic glycosides – aka, cyanide. You should avoid eating the stems, seeds, and leaves of the plant to avoid any danger of cyanide poisoning.

Even if you do accidentally eat some of these inedible portions, you’ll likely be fine – the quantities of cyanide or so low that you’d have to eat a lot of seeds – over 200 – in order to have any ill effects.

That being said, because crabapples are so sour, it’s not unheard of for some people to develop some digestive problems after eating them. You might have a sour stomach if you eat too many.

Cyanide poisoning symptoms would be much more severe, causing issues like seizures and shortness of breath. Again, however, this would be extremely difficult to do.

The same goes for feeding crabapples to animals. If you choose to feed livestock, like pigs or cattle, crabapples, they should be fine when the fruits are fed in moderation.

However, if you have crabapples inside your livestock pens, you might want to do something to put the trees out of their reach (such as building a fence around the base of the tree so the animals can’t gorge themselves on dropped apples).

Can I Grow Crabapples?

Growing your own crabapple trees is a great way to double up on your homestead – not only will you receive a fruit tree that pushes out hundreds of tasty morsels each year, but you’ll also have a new eye-catching focal point on your property.

In the spring, your crabapple tree will produce gorgeous colors (which will also help to attract beneficial pollinators), and in the fall, the colors will change to another lovely shade.

Crabapples produce foliage throughout the year and most varieties work well on smaller lawns, as they don’t grow to exorbitant heights. They require very little pruning and are drought-tolerant. They can also grow well in challenging soils, such as heavy clay, as well as in harsh conditions (such as extremely cold temperatures).

To grow crabapples, first select your variety. Decide whether the appearance or fruit-bearing ability of your tree is more important, and then select a variety based on that factor, as well as how well it withstands the conditions of your specific growing area.

In general, you should select a cultivar that has good fruit persistence -meaning it keeps their fruits until they are mature- and disease resistance. Most crabapples are hardy to zone 4, but some can be kept in colder weather. Most crabapples will prefer rich, well-draining and slightly acidic soil. They will need regular water during the first year, but after that thrive in dry conditions.

How are Crabapples Prepared?

Crabapple trees tend to produce fruits that are small, round, and hard. They can be green with a pale pink blush or golden yellow. While most crabapple will be small and sour and not ideal for eating raw, you can make some tantalizing recipes with these fruits. The most popular options are jams and jellies, but there are some more unique recipes you can try, too.

Crabapple jelly is one of the most popular ways to eat crabapples. It’s a great choice because you add so much sugar to the mixture that even super sour crabapples will have a fantastic taste when prepared this way. Crabapple jelly or jam also makes a fantastic gift!

You can make this with as few as a handful or as many as several bushels of crabapples, depending on how much jelly you want to make (and how many crabapple trees you have on your property).

All you need to do is cook down the apples until they reach a mushy consistency, and then add sugar to make preserves. Then you can process the jelly in a water bath canner to be used up to a full year later.

If you like fruit liqueurs, either for baking or for use in cocktails, you’ve got to give crabapple liqueur a try. This recipe combines about thirty to forty crabapples with some gin or vodka, as well as ample amounts of sugar. It does take about two months to steep, so there’s commitment involved – however, it’s totally worth it in the long run.

Another option for crabapples is pickling them. Pickled apples are great for adding a zesty spin on boring salads or sautees, but you can also use them as desserts. You can also make crabapple sauces with cinnamon and sugar, or butters that are great for spreading on toast.

If you have a crabapple tree on your property, you might never know what it truly is. Why? Crabapple trees hybridize very easily, so it’s difficult to determine the exact origins or breed of a tree.

However, it’s always safe to eat apples off any kind of tree, so you don’t have to worry about getting yourself sick by experimenting with the fruits of mystery apple trees.

Are Crabapples Edible: Learn About The Fruit Of Crabapple Trees

Who among us hasn’t been told at least once not to eat crabapples? Because of their frequently bad taste and small amounts of cyanide in the seeds, it’s a common misconception that crabapples are toxic. But is it safe to eat crabapples? Keep reading to learn more about the safety of eating crabapples and what to do with crabapple fruit trees.

The short answer to this question is: yes. But there’s a longer answer to explain why. Crabapples aren’t actually a different kind of tree than apples. The only distinction is one of size. If a tree produces fruits that are bigger than two inches (5 cm.) in diameter, it’s an apple. If the fruits are smaller than 2 inches, it’s a crabapple. That’s it.

Granted, those apples that have been bred to be bigger have also been bred to be better tasting. And many ornamental varieties of crabapples have been bred to have attractive flowers and nothing else. This means that the fruit of crabapple trees, for the most part, is not especially good tasting. Eating crabapples won’t make you sick, but you may not enjoy the experience.

Eating Fruit of Crabapple Trees

Some crabapple fruit trees are more palatable than others. Dolgo and Centennial are varieties that are sweet enough to eat right off the tree. For the most part, however, crabapple owners prefer to cook the fruit into preserves, butters, sauces, and pies. A couple good varieties for cooking are Chestnut and Whitney.

Crabapple trees hybridize readily, so if you have a tree on your property, there’s a decent chance you’ll never know quite what it is. Feel free to experiment with eating it fresh and cooking it with lots of sugar to see if it tastes good.

You don’t have to worry about whether it’s edible – it is. And as for the cyanide? It’s just as present in the seeds of apples and even pears. Just avoid the seeds as usual and you’ll be fine.

The Unexpected Harvest: Why Crab Apples Are My New Everything

The crab apple is the only apple native to North America. Here, writer Becca Miller sings its praises and explains why it is the star player in her favorite seasonal fruit syrup.

Full disclosure—I am, at heart, a cool-weather girl. While there is certainly a lot to love about the warmer months, both in the world of hyper-seasonal food (garlic scapes, I adore thee) and outdoor adventures (night swimming in lakes is, obviously, unmatched in its greatness), the fact is that when the temperatures rise above the mid-60s, I can be often found huddled in shady spots, strategizing the best way to avoid short-sleeved shirts for the foreseeable future. For as long as I can remember, brisk and brilliant autumn has been my favorite time of year. Cardamom. Pumpkins. The smell of roasting root vegetables. Cradling an oversize mug of hot apple cider, content in the knowledge that the word “cozy” would be working its way back into regular rotation.

So years back, when I dove headfirst into farming, foraging and all things homesteady, that already beloved window between late-September and early-December gained even more esteem. The abundance of wild and cultivated foods available in fall is staggering, and high among my list of favorite finds is that gem of the Northeast, the crab apple. Because, nothing against the plain-old apple (you’re great, honestly), but for those of us who love unexpected seasonal bounties, discovering the many uses of this often overlooked fruit is a total game-changer.

The only apple native to North America, the crab apple is often considered purely ornamental, if we think of them at all. Just another pretty tree with inedible fruit that serves as a great pollinator. Indeed, standing in a grove of crab apple trees in the springtime when their pink buds explode suddenly into bloom is a humming, buzzing symphony—the air vibrating with the gathering of nectar and pollen as bees put away stores for the long winter ahead.

Bees are onto something with their affinity for the crab apple. Once the arrival of fall brings cooler days, the trees become absolutely laden with small red fruit. And while it’s true that the acid in raw crab apples may leave you with an upset stomach if too many are eaten at once, cooked crab apples have become a key ingredient in some of my favorite recipes. Crab apple cake. Crab apple jelly on warm biscuits. Mixed apple and crab apple cider. But far and away, my favorite use of these super-sour, cherry-size fruits is to cook them down into a syrup that is both beautiful and versatile. Like most fruit syrup recipes, this one is exceedingly simple to make and is the perfect complement to two of the undisputed best treats around: booze and breakfast foods.

Mix one part of the bright-red syrup, one part vodka or gin, two parts seltzer and a squeeze of lemon to make a sweet, tart, beautifully pink drink. For a more kid-appropriate option, make your own crab apple soda by mixing the syrup directly with seltzer to your desired sweetness, or, as we do in my house, follow a recipe for homemade soda using water, yeast and syrup.

Drizzle the syrup over waffles or pancakes, or use as an ingredient in glazes for a savory meal like pork. Jars of this brilliant-red syrup also make great gifts around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

If you harvest more crab apples than you’d like to process right away, simply freeze them whole for use at a later date. I’m a big fan of this strategy, since I have more time to process, cook, eat and drink during the long North Country winter than during busy autumn harvest season.

5 things to do with crabapples

Calgary backyards are bursting with crabapples again so it’s that time of year to pick them and bake up something or preserve them in jars in the form of jelly, chutney or sauce.

Here are a few delicious ways to keep your surplus of crabapples (or the neighbours’) from filling up the compost bin.

Make jelly

Do what your grandma did — preserve the surplus of apples in your back yard by simmering juiced apples and sugar. An added bonus is if you have a lot of apples you’ll wind up with a stash of tasty, festive gifts to bring along to parties when the holiday season arrives.

Homemade Crabapple Jelly

  • Apples picked off a tree, or bought at the market
  • Cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • Sugar

Wash, stem and coarsely chop or just quarter the apples and put them in a large pot. (Don’t bother to peel or core them.)

Add enough water to just cover them and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the apples are very soft. Mash the whole lot with a big spoon or potato masher and cook for another few minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth set over a large bowl or pot, and let the juice drain out, stirring the pulp to extract as much juice as possible.

Measure the resulting juice into a pot (this is easy if you drain it into a pot with measurements marked on the side) and add ¾ cup sugar for every cup of juice.

Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 210°F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount placed on a cold plate and put into the freezer turns to gel. This should take about 20 minutes.

While it’s still hot, pour the jelly into hot jars, adding a cinnamon stick to each jar if you like; skim off any foam that rises to the top with a spoon, and seal. Set aside to cool.

Process in a hot water bath or store in the fridge.


Make bread pudding

Any basic bread pudding recipe will benefit from chunks of tart apple — try this version, sweetened with maple syrup.

Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding

  • ½ baguette or loaf of good-quality crusty bread, or an assortment of bread ends (raisin bread works well here)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups Half & Half
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • A shake of cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 10-15 crabapples, sliced or quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

Cut or tear the bread into one-inch chunks into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, cream and vanilla. Pour over the bread and let sit for an hour or overnight, stirring or turning the mixture once in a while. All the liquid should be well absorbed, but the bread shouldn’t turn to mush.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pour the bread mixture into a buttered baking dish. In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat and cook the crabapples for a few minutes until they start to soften. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until they start turning golden. Stir the apples into the bread mixture or sprinkle over top.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until puffed and golden. Serve warm, with whipped cream if you like. Serves 6.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Pickle them

Sweet and tangy pickled crabapples are delicious. Chef Liana Robberecht of the Calgary Petroleum Club tops creamy potato salad with thinly sliced, brilliant pink pickled crabapples.

Pickled Backyard Crabapples (Courtesy of Robberecht)

  • 3 cups whole crabapples, stemmed
  • ½ cup red vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 4 stems of tarragon
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Salt & pepper

Place all ingredients into a pot, making sure crabapples are covered with liquid. You can add more apple juice if you need to. Bring apples and liquid to a boil, then remove pot from heat. This step you have to watch — do not let the apples continue to boil or they will become mushy and overcooked. Let apples cool down in liquid.

Remove core from apples — this step is a labour of love: time consuming, but worth it. Place back into poaching liquid until you are ready to serve.

Pickled crabapples (Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

Make your own pectin

Crabapples, and particularly their cores and seeds, are naturally very high in pectin. Simmer two pounds of crabapples with three cups of water for about 30 minutes, then mash and strain — the result can be used like you would use liquid pectin in a recipe to set any kind of fruit jelly or jam.

Make a tarte tatin

Whether you want to make a full-sized tarte tatin or a few small ones, wee crabapples are tart enough to balance the rich pastry and caramel that binds them together.

Crabapple Tarte Tatin

  • small or medium crabapples
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp. honey, maple syrup or Roger’s Golden Syrup
  • pastry for a single crust pie or 1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Stem and halve your crabapples; if you like, cut out their cores.

In a heavy ovenproof or cast iron skillet cook the sugar, butter and honey over medium-high heat for roughly five minutes until it turns smooth and golden. Place enough apples to cover the bottom of the pan into the hot caramel and cook for another three minutes.

Remove from heat and turn the apples cut-side up using tongs. Roll the pastry out until it’s a little larger in diameter than the skillet; cover the apples and tuck in the edge of the pastry. Cut a few slits in the top and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Carefully invert the tarte tatin onto a plate while it’s still warm. Serve with whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup. Serves 6.

(Courtesy Julie Van Rosendaal)

What’s the last thing that you got for free? Was it a buy-one-get-one-freebie or a free gift when you signed up for a subscription service? The last thing that I got for free was a harvest of crabapples in my backyard. They were free because I never even planted the trees (they are courtesy of my home’s previous owners). How will you use crabapples if you should happen to find a free supply?

BTW, if you don’t have a crabapple tree, and you want to give them a try, look for them at your local farmers market. Alternatively, a neighbor may have a tree and be more than happy to share.

Is it safe to eat crabapples?

Yes. I can personally vouch for the fact that I’ve eaten a crabapple and lived to tell about it. I have not, however, eaten a lot of them at one time. Why? First of all, they are very tart and pithy so eating more than one is not enjoyable. Also, anecdotal reports suggest that eating a few at a time can upset your stomach.

So, although a reasonable amount is safe to eat, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the potentially fatal cyanide.

According to, “Crabapples are essentially the same species as apple trees. The seeds of both of these trees contain a form of cyanide called cyanogenic glycosides. Cyanide is a toxic…However, the average American eats around 16.9 pounds of fresh apples every year and reports no toxic effects. Despite the presence of cyanide in the seeds, most people don’t eat the core. Even when apple seeds are ingested, they usually pass through the gut without being broken down. You would have to eat lots of crabapple seeds and grind or chew them up for the cyanide to take effect.”

What the heck do I do with crabapples?

For years, I simply added my crabapple harvest to my compost bin, but that’s not the most effective (or enjoyable) use for them.

Cook with them:

Check out these recipes for crabapple jelly, bread pudding, pickles, butter, and spiced apples.

Get crafty:

Crabapples can be used in fun fall crafts.

Create a Halloween witch puppet by dehydrating a peeled crabapple. Put the dried apple on the top of a craft stick or chop stick. Push whole cloves into the apple for eyes and a nose. Use small pieces of fabric to dress the witch in a cape. Some yarn or dried hay glued on the top of the apple will make hair.

Craft a fall wreath. Peel a crabapple and core it so that you have a hole through its center. Now, slice the apple so that you have circles with a center hole cut out of them (like a tire shape). Dehydrate crabapple slices and thread them onto stiff floral wire. Tie the ends together to form a circle, and add a festive bow or ribbon.

Medicinal uses:

I’m not a doctor or homeopathic healer. Although I’ve never used crabapples medicinally, I’m intrigued by some reading I’ve done about their medicinal uses.

According to, “The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids.” They have been used to relieve constipation, and the astringent juice, which is rich in tannin, is helpful in chronic diarrhea.

According to Natural Medicinal Herbs, “The crushed fruit pulp can be used as a poultice to heal inflammations or small flesh wounds.”

Related on Organic Authority
How to Store Apples you grow or Harvest
Walmart to Battle Food Waste by Selling ‘Ugly’ Apples
An Apple a Day…May Kill You? Controversial Diphenylamine on 80 Percent of U.S. Apples

photo of crabapple via

I grew up thinking crabapples were poisonous. (I also grew up thinking life was fair and goodness would be rewarded, so go figure.) After all, I never saw anybody eat them, and why would people let all that pretty fruit go to waste if it was worth eating? Crabapples are extremely popular garden plants, but almost everyone grows them for their delicate spring flowers, not for their fruit. Today it is my pleasure to tell you, nay to encourage you, to eat your crabapples!

Crabapples are bred for looks, not taste, and the flavor varies widely from tree to tree. Most are extremely sour and many have a grainy texture. So why do I recommend eating them? Because some are as crisp and delicious as an full sized apple, and even those that don’t have wonderful texture yield a tart juice you can use in jellies, cocktails, and frozen desserts.

Technically, any apple with a diameter smaller than two inches is a crabapple. Botanically, they’re in the Malus genus, just like regular apples.

Crabapples have lots of natural pectin, which explains why they’re so sour. (Pectin is very sour.) The pectin level declines with time so if you want to make a no-pectin added jelly, harvest barely ripe or under ripe fruit. Otherwise, let the crabapples stay on the tree to sweeten up a bit, but pick them before they start to shrivel. Crabapples are persistent fruit, which means they’ll hang on the tree all winter long until birds and squirrels (and foragers) have eaten every last one.

Larger crabapples (with a diameter greater than one inch) tend to have better texture, and can be eaten raw or pickled. Spiced crabapples (made with spicebush and wild ginger) are an excellent side dish with chicken or pork. And they make a lovely cocktail garnish.

Smaller, mealy fruit may not be great for eating out of hand, but still has plenty of culinary value. You can make homemade pectin to use with low pectin fruit, or syrup to use as a base for sorbet and ice cream, or crabapple wine that is surprisingly reminiscent of port. Infuse a bottle of bourbon with crabapples to make a classic fall cocktail. The combination of tart fruit and sweet whiskey is terrific.

Cooking obliterates any textural issues you might have with small crabapples, so use them in pies, cakes, applesauce, and fruit leather. You’ll probably need to adjust the sugar if you’re using a traditional apple recipe, since crabs are almost always more sour than larger apples.

Next time you pass a crabapple tree with ripe fruit, taste one. (As long as you have permission and you know the fruit hasn’t been sprayed with anything toxic, of course.) Yes, it will be sour. But imagine that tartness tempered with a little sugar and a few spices. Then you’ll understand why my kitchen is full of crabapple juice, crabapple sauce, and crabapple syrup. And did I mention crabapple bourbon? Cheers!

Crabapple trees are a beautiful ornamental addition to your landscape, but many people wonder if crab apple fruit is poisonous.

With nearly one thousand different varieties of crab apple trees, knowing the answer to whether or not the crab apples on a specific variety are edible can take some research.

Luckily, I put together this guide so you can quickly learn if crab apples are edible, what types there are, and answer frequently asked questions including whether or not crab apples are safe for dogs to eat.

So read along as I give you pertinent details about crab apples and the trees they grow on, so you can add the right variety into your home’s landscaping.

What to Expect From This Article

Are Crab Apples Edible?

As a general rule, the flesh of the crab apple fruit is edible.

Crabapple trees are a close relation to apple trees, but the fruit is much smaller.

Some crabapple varieties will have a sweeter taste and work better for making jams or desserts. The fruit size and color also varies between tree varieties.


Crabapple flavor is always tart, with some fruit varieties so extremely tart most people consider them inedible.

While standard apples can be eaten raw, people unanimously cook crab apples with lots of sugar to offset the tart or bitter flavor and bring out the apple essence.

Jelly, pies, pickles, and chutney recipes are easy to find online that use crabapples as the main ingredient.

If you have an abundant crabapple crop growing in your tree (or a neighbors yard), don’t let them go to waste. Give crab apple recipes a try!

Types Of Crab Apples

There are two types of crab apples, edible or ornamental.

While crabapple trees can produce a wide array of colors, sizes, textures, and flavors of fruit, the type of crab apple is determined by if you should eat it or not.

Edible Crabapple Type

Some crab apple fruits have a flavor worthy of making them into edible treats.

The top varieties of crabapple trees with edible fruit are:

  • Centennial crab apple
  • Chestnut crab apple
  • Dolgo/Dalgo crab apple
  • Pink Spires crab apple
  • Hopa crab apple
  • Red Vein crab apple

So if you are looking for a crabapple tree with delicious edible fruit to make preserves or desserts, consider planting or buying any of the above varieties.

Be specific when asking about crabapple tree fruit. Technically, all crab apples are edible, which could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth after spending money and effort to plant a tree.

You need to ask about sweetness, flesh texture, and flavor notes if you plan to cook up your crabapple crop.

If the seller can’t answer these questions, do a quick search of the specific variety online to ensure you purchase fruit that is tasty to cook.

Ornamental Crab Apple Type

The second type of crab apple is ornamental. The tree can be of average height, while many are dwarf, which makes it easier to incorporate into a homeowner’s landscape design.

The fruit tends to be very small, with a hard texture and high tannin levels. The taste will be painfully tart or bitter, rendering the fruit useless for cooking up jams or jellies.

While the fruit of these trees is not worthy of eating, they are quite stunning in color and shape.

After enjoying the abundant blooms of flowers that cover the crab apple tree in the late spring, you get the pleasure of several more weeks of color as the fruit matures.

The top varieties of ornamental crabapple trees are:

  • Malus or “Camelot” crab apple
  • Firebird crab apple
  • Royal Raindrops crab apple
  • Sparkling Sprite crab apple
  • Red Jewel crab apple
  • Sargent Tina dwarf crab apple

There are a few crabapple trees bred to produce no fruit at all like “Prairie Rose” and “Spring Snow.” But, most ornamental trees produce fruit that remains on the tree much longer before falling off than sweet varieties.

If you have pets, especially dogs, you need to be aware of the potential issues crab apples could cause.

Learn about this and more in the next section, where I answer common questions about crab apples.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dogs Eat Crab Apples?

Dogs should never ingest crab apples! Here’s why:

Because, just like a full-size apple, crab apple stems, seeds, and leaves contain the chemical cyanogenic glycoside. This chemical is better known as cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs of any age.

The flesh of the fruit is not dangerous, but what dog do you know that will peel, deseed, and core a crabapple they find on the ground?

Common signs of crab apple poisoning include:

  • Panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Red lips, gums, or tongue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • A decrease in heart rate and oxygen levels
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Levels of this toxin are highest in the leaves and fruit during autumn, so be especially diligent in raking up such fallen debris if the crab apple tree is in a location your dog can access.

Do Deer Eat Crab Apples?

Deer sure do like to eat crabapples and show no signs of negative reactions to eating the fruit.

Deer are picky eaters and will favor juicier, sweeter variations and save the less desirable types of crabapple fruit until other food sources run low.

For this reason, you can encourage wildlife like deer to visit your yard if you plant a couple of different varieties of crab apples.

Sweet-fruiting varieties will provide food for the deer to eat early in the season, while more bitter-fruit types will bring them back later on when other food is scarce.

What Do Crab Apples Look Like?

Crabapples look like mini apples, with the size being the distinction between the two.

They are both members of the Malus apple genus. When the fruit of this genus is under two inches in diameter at maturity, it is a crab apple. Above that dimension, the fruit is a standard apple.

Crab apples can be as small as 1/4-inch in diameter, on up to two inches in size. Some fruit may have an elongated shape, somewhat like a plum.

Colors of crabapple fruit can range from bright red, yellow, orange-red, crimson, yellow-green, and reddish-purple. The outer skin can appear shiny or have a dull or “dusty” look.

What Does A Crabapple Tree Look Like?

It is a bit difficult to describe a crabapple tree since each variety will reach a different height and spread, display a unique bloom color, and produce different sizes of fruit and leaf. Trunk colors may vary.

As an overview, I can narrow down general traits all crabapple trees have.


Crabapples top out at 30 feet, but most fall in the 15 to 20-foot range, which makes them perfect for yards for both privacy and to not interfere with power lines. Dwarf varieties grow up to eight-foot-tall and make a beautiful focal point in your landscape.


Leaves come to a point and have serrated edges. The color begins as light green in the spring and darkens over months. As the weather cools, the leaves turn yellow/orange or red/purple depending on the variety.

The leaves (and fruit) grow in clusters. The leaves form an off-set pattern down the branch instead of directly across from each other.


Flowers form in dense bunches in shades of white, light to dark pink or purple.


The fruit hangs from the tree on long stems, looking more like a cherry than an apple. The size is under two inches in diameter.

Trunk and branches

Crabapple trees develop thin trunks and frequently are many-trunked as they stretch up into wide, dense branches that give the tree a round shape.

The color and texture of the outer bark become mottled as the tree matures.

In Summary

While crab apples are poisonous to dogs when eaten whole, humans can indulge in this tart fruit by preparing and cooking it correctly.

Crab apples make delicious jams, kinds of butter, and other treats when you select the sweetest varieties.

Crabapples not only attract birds and other wildlife drawn to the nutritious fruit it provides.

The bright, color-changing foliage and stunning clusters of blooms add tremendous visual appeal to your landscape during all seasons of the year.

I hope this crabapple guide inspires you to try crabapple recipes and maybe plant a variety or two of crab apple trees in your yard!

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