Is It Okay to Eat Crab Apples?

Everyone has been told at least once not to eat crabapples. Many people think they are poisonous because they often taste bad and the seeds contain small amounts of cyanide. Can you eat crabapples without getting sick? Read on to find out more about that and what to do with crabapple fruit trees.

The short answer to this question is: yes. However, 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 2 inches (5 cm. ) in diameter, it’s an apple. If the fruits are smaller than 2 inches (5 cm. ), 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. 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 wont make you sick, but you may not enjoy the experience.

Crab apples are the small, bitter wild apples that grow on short, shrubby trees. They have been an important part of our landscape and cuisines for centuries. But with their sour, astringent taste, you may be wondering – is it actually safe and tasty to eat crab apples?

What Are Crab Apples?

The crab apple is a wild apple species that is the ancestor of our modern, domesticated apple. There are over 25 species of crab apples native to North America.

Crab apples are typically under 2 inches in diameter, with hard, bitter flesh. They grow on small, low trees that rarely exceed 20 feet in height. The fruits ripen in late summer to fall.

While cultivated apples were bred over time to be larger and sweeter, crab apples have retained their small, tart flavor. They are essentially the same species as regular apples, just on a smaller scale.

Are Crab Apples Edible?

The good news is yes, crab apples are edible! As long as you remove the bitter core and seeds, the flesh can be eaten raw or cooked into jams, jellies, sauces, and more.

While raw crab apples are mouth-puckeringly tart, their intense flavor transforms into something delightful when cooked. The high pectin content also makes them an excellent fruit for setting jams and jellies

Crab apples should never be eaten whole, seeds and all as the seeds contain small amounts of amygdalin which breaks down into cyanide. But you would need to eat an excessive amount of seeds to make you sick, so accidentally swallowing a seed or two is not dangerous.

How to Eat Crab Apples

While palatability varies by individual taste, here are some of the best ways to eat crab apples:

  • Raw in salads – Slice very thin and pair with bold flavors. The tartness pairs well with blue cheese.

  • Juiced – Blend with sweeter apple varieties to temper the sourness.

  • Jams and jellies – The natural pectin makes crab apples perfect for preserves.

  • Baking – Chop and use in place of regular apples, paired with spices and sweeteners.

  • Sauces – Puree into a tangy sauce for pork or game meats.

  • Canning – Pickle crab apples for a unique garnish.

  • Liqueurs – Infuse gin or vodka to make a crab apple cordial.

Nutrition Profile of Crab Apples

Crab apples contain many of the same nutrients as regular apples, just in a petite package. The nutrition in one raw crab apple includes:

  • 18 calories
  • 5g carbohydrates
  • 1g fiber
  • 2% DV vitamin C
  • 1% DV potassium
  • 1% DV copper

So while small, crab apples provide vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

Foraging for Crab Apples

Crab apples grow wild across most of the United States. They are found along fencerows, woodland edges, and in fields.

Never consume any wild fruit unless you can positively identify it. Crab apples resemble cherries but can be identified by their white flesh streaked with brown seeds when cut in half.

Only forage on public lands or with permission from private landowners. Follow sustainable harvesting principles, never taking more than 1/3 of the fruit from a single tree.

How to Store Crab Apples

Fresh crab apples will keep for 2-3 weeks when refrigerated. To extend their shelf life for use in cooking and preserves:

  • Freeze – Wash, core, and freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan, then transfer to bags.

  • Can – Sterilize jars and process in a water bath canner for 10-15 minutes.

  • Dry – Use a dehydrator or oven on low heat to dry sliced crab apples. Store in an airtight container.

Are Crab Apples Safe For Dogs?

While the small amounts of cyanide in crab apples are not harmful to humans, they can be dangerous if your dog eats a large quantity of the seeds. Make sure to keep dogs away from trees dropping crab apples. Seek veterinary care if you suspect your dog has ingested crab apples.

Crab apples have been used for centuries as food and natural medicine. Their eye-watering sourness mellows into delicious fruity flavor when cooked. Enjoy them as a nostalgic foraged treat, just be sure to remove the seeds first. With some creativity in the kitchen, crab apples can transform into jams, baked goods, sauces, and more.

is it ok to eat crab apples

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. Because crabapple trees easily cross with other species, there’s a good chance you’ll never know for sure what kind of tree you have. Go ahead and try it both fresh and cooked with a lot of sugar to see what you like best. You don’t have to worry about whether it’s edible – it is. 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.

Everything You Need To Know About Crab Apples!

Are crab apples poisonous to eat?

Crab apples are not poisonous to eat. However, you should avoid eating or chewing crab apple seeds. As with all varieties of apples, the seeds from crab apples are toxic and can metabolize into a poisonous cyanide compound, notes Brown.

What happens if you eat a crab apple?

If you eat a crab apple, be sure to avoid the seeds and core. The seeds contain cyanogenic glycoside, which your body metabolizes into cyanide, a toxic compound. However, it would take a lot of seeds to make you sick if you accidentally swallow a few.

Can you eat crab apples?

Crab apples are small, decorative wild apples that are edible. They are members of the Malus genus, like eating apples. A common misconception is that crab apples are toxic, but they are in fact edible.

Can dogs eat crab apples?

Crab apples are safe for humans to eat after discarding the seeds and pit. However, they may be dangerous for pets and animals if they consume the seeds. Crab apples are little apples that contain similar healthful nutrients as regular apples.

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