In newly planted food forest I have already several varieties of apple, besides other trees. Is there a reason to include crab apple in design also? I red about it is good for cider, and can't remember what else. But cider can be made from every apple, right? So, does crab apple have any advantage over domesticated apple? Like better pollinator, more frost hardy, more tolerant to poor soil, better for cider, better for jams, wildlife, etc?
Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
Well, our new place needs more trees I'll start some and they'll be welcome there.
Joined: Oct 13, 2011
"Like to hear more about carbapple and food apple. I thought pollination had to be with the correct apple tree."
Named varieties of food apples are all clones. As with all clones their viability goes down with each generation. Crab apples are closer to the wild species, and therefore have higher fecundity, which allows them to pollinate the rest of the orchard. Around here the apple growers all have at least one crab apple amoungst their trees.
Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
richard valley wrote:Like to hear more about carbapple and food apple. I thought pollination had to be with the correct apple tree.
The cedar waxwings absolutely tore through my neighbor's remaining crab apples (two trees worth) and then ate most of mine (four trees worth) in early November, 2011. IF for no other reason than that, it was worth it to have the big flocks visit for a few days. Nice to be able to provide for such beautiful birds. They did leave a heck of a mess but shoveling snow a couple of times has removed all the "residue".
I have two very old apples trees (variety unknown) but don't worry at all about pollination due to the pollen provided by crabapples.
Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Location: Millinocket/St. Agatha, Maine
My understanding is that any type of crabapple can be a good pollinator. As for other uses, that would depend on the variety of crabapple you chose. Some of them are good in pies, particularly when mixed with other types of apples, and they are good in pies. Of course, they also attract wildlife, the advantages there being a matter of perspective, i suppose.
That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it, unless someone yells at me or something.
One could break the term "crabapple" into two generalizations:
One, the native-type crabapples, or similar hybridized ornamental varieties, which are really cool and pretty trees, great for the birds, but generally only insignificantly edible, e.g you could eat them, but you may burn more calories picking out the seeds than you would gain by eating. The fruit of this type are generally garbanzo-sized or usually smaller
Two, the crabapples with larger fruit, e.g dolgo is a common one with fruit around the size of gumballs. Kids love to nibble them, and they make great jelly/jam/cider. There are also bigger varieties of crabapple, here in the south we have one called craven, that has apples almost as big as a small apple. The jelly/preserves are a delicacy around here, comparable to quince preserves. The trick with crabapples and hard cider too, is that if you naturally ferment the cider, you get something called a malo-lactic fermentation going on. Essentially, you get an apple juice that is barely drinkable it is so sour, but it finishes to a slightly tart dry type cider. Very yummy. Actually most seedling apples are a bit crabby from my experience, and in a historical sense were used for alcohol production.
we share a crabapple tree with our neighbor. The blooms are very nice right now, lots of pollinators come by. Lots of birds. When the apples drop, I collect them, mash them and they fuel my compost pile quite spectacularly.
Joined: Jul 14, 2010
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
Curculio is attracted to, among other things, "lush-leafed edible crab apples", (source The Holistic Orchard) thus they could be used as trap trees. This strategy probably makes more sense in community scale food production systems vs. home.
"Crab apple" is a blanket term, so I believe the use of a crab apple depends on its species (there are around 35). The crab apples native to Croatia might be completely different from the ones I've encountered in Michigan.
The only crab apples I've ever eaten were growing in my grandpa's yard. They were small, green, and sour as heck! I'm 95% sure they were Malus coronaria, the so-called "sweet" crab apple, which is native to Michigan. I've never had any jam, cider, or butter made with crab apples so I can't comment on their use for that. When Pehr Kalm, one of Linnaeus' twelve "apostles" encountered Malus coronaria, he suggested that they were useless for making anything but vinegar. If you're interested in making your own vinegar, I think crab apples would be a good candidate so you don't have to waste your better-tasting fruits on that service.
However, I've read that most crab apple species taste fine after they've been baked or roasted, so it's completely possible that they could be as legitimate a food source as the domestic apple.
Joined: May 15, 2012
As I understand it, crab apples are generally hardier than regular apples. Many of them are grown for their abundant, beautiful flowers which range from white to dark pink or 'red'. That would be an advantage from a permaculture point of view in attracting pollinators. Crab apples are more often used in jams and jellies and that kind of thing because of their very high pectin content. There are a very few 'large' crabapples that are nearly the size of small regular apples, and those can be eaten (I've heard) or used as candied apples that are very good (I wish I had the recipe, but I did have some once.) Not all crabapples are equal. The ones that grow where I currently live, well, they are only good for compost, but they make lovely, quick decomposing compost.
Most apples will do fine with any pollinator EXCEPT apples that are too closely related (for instance Golden Delicious and Red Delicious do not pollinate each other well because they are both sports of the Delicious apple. They also do not pollinate well with the Gala apple, of which they are close parent-lines of). Only a handful of regular apples are self-pollinating, and I only know of one fully self-pollinating apple. I do not know how crabapples rate at self-pollination.
Apples do not come true from seed, though certain characteristic are more likely to show up if the parent tree had them in seedlings. This is why apples are 'cloned' by grafting scion wood into a different rootstock. Apples with excellent flavor tend to not be as hardy as, say, cider apples, so that is why they are grafted onto hardy rootstock and you will rarely, if ever, find rooted cuttings or own-root regular apples, unless you grow one from seed. All commercially sold apples and even heirloom varieties are propagated this way. Apples and crabapples are not seperate species (for instance, the Granny Smith apple is a chance seedling of a crabapple orchard.)
Crabapples are also sometimes grown as a food source for wild creatures, such as birds and foxes.
Joined: Mar 11, 2012
Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
I planted 3 crab apples around my place and so far 4 apples - I am going to plant more apples. The crabs have long bloom times which have covered the bloom times of the apples and have fruited every year. The apples have not fruited yet at all due to severe weather and age of trees, But the crabs are the same age.
They are also quite nice to look at in the spring
Joined: Jun 18, 2012
Location: Bedford, England: zone 8/AHS 2
I use them for crabapple jelly. You cut them in half and cook down slowly until you have a mush, then strain overnight. The next day measure the liquid and add 1Lb of sugar for every 1pt (UK/Can) or 1.25pt (US) of juice, and cook as you would any other jam or jelly. I usually use crabapple jelly in pork casseroles, especially if I'm also using cider. You need to watch it carefully as it's very easy to overcook it - I did that last year, and the result would have been better suited for construction than consumption - it was like granite!
They're also very good for bramble jelly. Use a 1:6 proportion of crab apples to blackberries, plus the rind and juice of a lemon for every 1Lb of crabapples. You make it in exactly the same way as crab apple jelly. Ditto hedgerow jelly (blackberries & sloes).
If you can be bothered with the fiddle of peeling, coring and chopping them, they're also good for chutneys. I usually use bramleys instead though, since they're easier.
Joined: Jul 27, 2012
Location: Connecticut: Zone 6a
I grew up on the shore of Long Island Sound, and we used to use our crabapple tree to remind us of when to start fishing for blackfish (tautog).
When the crabapple blossoms the blackfish start biting, so the folklore goes. Other than that it just made a mess and attracted yellow jackets.
We eventually replaced it with a calendar.
Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Location: North Central Michigan
i have a pole crab apple that I moved (had it before our housefire and it was the only moved tree that survived). It has huge crabapples, they are nearly as big as a regular apple, very tasty and nearly black..so definately worth having. It also has the prettiest bright pink flowers in the spring. thses apples are large enough to can for spiced apples
Bloom where you are planted.
After burning through the drip stuff and the french press stuff, Paul has the last, ever, coffee maker. Better living through buying less crap.