Flowering Crabapples are one of the most popular varieties of apple. They have a long history and have been grown commercially since at least 1795 when they were first introduced into New York State. Since then, many other states have followed suit with their own varieties. Today there are over 200 different varieties of crabapples grown throughout North America, although only around 50 or so are cultivated commercially.
The name “crabapple” comes from the fact that these apples bear a resemblance to crabs (Crabs) which are native to the area where they originated. Some of them even look like miniature versions of real crabs! These fruits vary greatly in size, shape and color, but all are very sweet and juicy.
In the United States, crabapples are usually sold fresh or frozen. Freshly picked crabapples tend to be sweeter than those stored longer. Frozen crabapples are usually kept in airtight containers until they thaw out enough to be plucked off the vine.
There are several cultivars of crabapples available today, including Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Honeycrisp. Each variety has its own characteristics such as flavor and size. The following information will give you some general information about each type of crabapple.
1. Red and Yellow Raceway: This crabapple is an old cultivar that was first introduced in 1904.
It matures to a dark red color and has a medium size, usually being no larger than 3 inches in diameter. It also has a long stem, which makes it easier to pick.
2. Opalescence: These apples are great for making pies or apple butter.
They tend to be larger than the average crabapple and have a rich, reddish-yellow color.
3. Red haven: This crabapple bears fruit from mid-August through September.
It tastes similar to the honeycrisp apple, although it’s smaller in size. It’s great for fresh eating and for making crabapple jelly.
4. Goldrush: This crabapple ripens in August and has a golden yellow skin.
It has a sweet flavor and is especially good for making jelly.
5. Spy: This apple was found growing wild (hence the name) in Minnesota in the 1800s.
It ripens in late August or early September and is yellow with a red blush.
6. Melrose: This crabapple ripens in mid- to late-September.
It has a yellow skin with red-striped flesh and a tart flavor.
7. Potomac (Hood): This crabapple ripens during the last week of September.
It has a sweet flavor which is good for fresh eating and also for applesauce or apple butter.
8. Duchess: This apple ripens in mid-to-late September.
It’s a cross between a Siberian crab and another variety of wild crabapple. It has yellow skin with red stripes and is one of the largest of all crabapples.
9. Redgold: This apple ripens in late August.
It is similar to the Opalescence in that it can be used for similar purposes, but it’s much smaller in size (usually about 1 inch in diameter).
10. Stayman: This apple ripens in mid-September and was developed at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1912. It has a dark red color and a sweet taste–great for fresh eating, sauce or jelly.
11. Winter Banana: These crabapples ripen in mid-September and are great for making crabapple jelly because they contain very little seeds and have a mild flavor.
12. Cardinal: This apple ripens in late September and has a red-streaked green skin. It’s very sweet and great for fresh eating or applesauce.
13. Bloody Butcher: These crabapples ripen in mid-to-late September and are great for jelly because of their mild flavor.
14. Spring Snow: This apple ripens in late September and was developed at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1919. It has a pale yellow skin and sweet flavor.
It is great for eating fresh or making into applesauce or jelly.
When choosing crabapples, look for plump fruit with as few blemishes as possible. They should be free of soft spots, mold or decay. Pick up the crabapples and give them a little shake–if you hear a lot of loose seeds rattling around, that’s a sign that they’re probably not very good crabapples.
You can store any extra crabapples in the refrigerator for about a week.
Cooking With Crabapples
The following pages contain a number of delicious recipes that feature crabapples. You can use them for everything from appetizers to desserts.
Drain the juice from a jar of sour crabapples (You can substitute with regular dill or bread-and-butter pickles). Add 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper and 1 tsp of salt. Cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches a low boil.
Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool. Put the crabapples in a bowl and pour the mixture over them. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
This recipe makes about 1/2 gallon of crabapple pickles. There’s enough to share with your neighbors–as long as you don’t eat them all before you get there!
Combine 1/2 cup of water, 2 cups of brown sugar, 3 cups of raisins, 1 chopped apple (any kind), 1 chopped onion, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, 2 tbsp of curry powder and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar. Cook on medium heat until the mixture reaches a low boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. After cooking for 2 hours, add 1 tsp of ground ginger and 1 tsp of salt.
Stir well and allow to cool before serving.
This recipe makes about four cups of crabapple chutney. You can store the leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
Peel and chop 4 potatoes, 4 onions and 4 carrots. Add to a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 1 hour or until the vegetables are very soft.
Meanwhile, peel and core 6 apples (any kind). Cut into cubes and place in a bowl.
Add 8 crabapples (sour apples), 2 cups of apple cider, 3 tsp of curry powder, 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper to the pot with the potato-carrot mixture. Stir and allow to cook for about 15 minutes or until the crabapples are soft.
Strain the soup into a bowl using a strainer and then return it to the pot. Stir in 1 cup of half-and-half and the apple cubes. Cook over medium heat until it just starts to boil.
Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the apples are soft. Stir occasionally.
Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.
This recipe makes about 8 servings of crabapple soup.
Here’s a great crabapple salad that goes great with just about any kind of meal:
Peel and chop 2 apples (any kind). Add to a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Stir to coat the apples.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Drain the apple mixture in a strainer over a bowl to catch the juice.
Just before serving, stir in 1 cup of mayonnaise and 2 cups of sour crabapples. Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers immediately after serving.
This recipe makes about 6 servings of crabapple salad.
Here’s another crabapple recipe that can be used as a side dish or even as a dessert:
Add 6 cups of crabapples (sour apples), 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tbsp of lemon juice to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the crabapples begin to break down. Stir often to prevent burning and add more lemon juice if necessary.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Stir well before serving.
This crabapple recipe makes about 4 cups of crabapple compote. Just add some vanilla ice cream for a yummy dessert!
More Crabapple Recipes
So now that you’ve got quite a few crabapple recipes to choose from, why not try them out on your friends and family?
Everyone loves apples so it won’t take much convincing. Be prepared though, when you tell people that these crabapples are something special and not the same old boring apples they’ll most likely think you’re exaggerating. However, one taste and they’ll be coming back for more!
And if you enjoy cooking with crabapples so much why not try growing your own crabapple tree?
There are a few crabapple trees for sale online. Even if you don’t have space for a full size tree, you could always get one of the smaller varieties or try growing it as a bushes.
You can’t go wrong with crabapples!
Sources & references used in this article:
Flowering crabapple trees by J Klett, R Cox – Gardening series. Trees & shrubs; no. 7.424, 2008 – mountainscholar.org
Flowering crabapples: the genus Malus. by JL Fiala – 1994 – cabdirect.org
Disease resistant crabapples.(Results of 1984 survey). by LP Nichols – Shade Tree, 1985 – cabdirect.org
Flowering crab apple tree named ‘Morning Princess’ by RG Krahn, RE Krahn, VJ Krahn – US Patent App. 09/519,405, 2002 – Google Patents