Crabapples or Malus sylesris, can often be found along fields in wooded areas. When cultivated in the home orchard or garden, crabapples grow up on trees that can reach up to 25 feet in height.
The flowers of the crabapples begin as white, light pink to dark pink, and purple blossoms.
The crabapple fruit will grow in clusters from long stems, and are usually between 1/4 inch to 2 inches in diameter. Actually, if the crabapples are larger than 2 inches, they are considered “apples” and not crabapples.
The leaves of the crabapples may have fine hairs on the underside, but will lose this hair as the leaves mature.
Leaves will be 1 1/2-3 inches long and appear to be light green in the Spring, turning dark green in the Summer and have a diversity of colors into yellow-orange and reddish-purple hues in the Fall.
When you are ready to go foraging for crabapples, and want to know if they are ripe, simply cut a couple of the fruits at the equator. Ripe crabapples will have a brown seed, and “give” when you squeeze them.
Start watching for crabapples to be ready to harvest in August, but there are nearly 1000 crabapple varieties, and some varieties may not be ripe until later in the fall.
Crabapples are a good source of Vitamin C, and are high in pectin. Due to their high pectin content, they are popular for adding to homemade jam to make it “jam” instead of adding store bought pectin.
Crabapples also balance out sweet and savory dishes with a light, tart flavor. Try this homemade stuffing for your next holiday meal or family gathering!
Cornbread with Crabapples Stuffing
For the cornbread:
- 1 ½ cups cornmeal
- ½ cup fresh ground flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1 stick butter melted
To make the cornbread:
- in a medium sized bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
- Combine the wet into the dry, and stir until just mixed.
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
To make Cornbread With Crabapples Stuffing:
- 1 batch cornbread
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 4 celery ribs, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cups crab apples, diced
- 2 cups chicken broth (or turkey broth) (get the DIY directions on how to make this here)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
Put it all together:
1. Crumble cornbread into mixing bowl.
2. Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9×13 pan.
3. In a heavy skillet, melt butter.
4. Add celery, onion and crab apples and sauté for 3 minutes, until soft.
5. Add to crumbled cornbread.
6. Pour stock over mixture.
7. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Stir to combine.
9. Pour mixture into pan, and bake for 45 minutes.
10. Serve hot.
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.
Will you try foraging for crabapples this year? What will you use them for? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.