Foraging for Crab Apples

(Malus sylvestris)

Crab apples are abundant throughout the UK, and are the small sized apples that you see in many hedgerows, fields, woodlands and gardens. Can you eat crab apples? Yes, although they taste rather sour when eaten raw. Cook them with a little sugar, however, and the options are endless for this wild, culinary delight.

crab applesWhat do Crab Apple trees look like?

Crab apple trees are varied in species, and ‘crab’ simple refers to the small size. Crab apples can be all sorts of colours, from a russet red, to golden, to yellow and green.

Crab apple trees are usually small, less than 20 feet in height. The leaves are oval shaped with pointed tips and serrated edges.

In spring and summer, crab apple trees are in blossom. The colour of the flowers ranges from white to pink, and the apples that follow are approximately one or two inches in diameter, and grow on long stems.


Eating Crab Apples

The fruit is ready to harvest in autumn. Gather the cleanest looking apples for the best flavour.

The taste of raw crab apple is very sour, and not many people will enjoy the taste and drying sensation in the mouth. When cooked with sugar and other ingredients as a jam, or into a jelly or compote however, the apply freshness is something to be enjoyed.

Plus, there is so much natural pectin, the stuff that makes a jam or jelly set, in crab apples, that even if you add just a few to a variety of preserves, it will set them to the desired firmness without the need for shop bought pectin. Try this Crab Apple Jam recipe!

Crab apples also taste good when baked or roasted in an oven, though a little sugar might be required. They also make a tasty addition to a stuffing mix.


Considerations when eating Crab Apples

Go steady with the crab apples until you are used to them, as you could get a stomach ache as you would when eating too much of any fruit.

Like all apples, the seeds of a crab apple contain minute amounts of cyanide, so try not to eat them! If making jelly or jam, you will strain the pulp from the juice so no seeds will be present anyway.

Do you forage for Crab Apples? Share your recipes here!


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