A symbol of fertility and a forager's delight. Crab apple trees are associated with love and marriage and its small, hard fruits make an exquisite, jewel-coloured jelly.Discover more
Yes, you can eat crab apples. Generally, they're too tart to eat raw, but their appliness is intense when cooked.
Credit: Phil Formby / WTML
Wild crab apples are the origin of our cultivated species and have been used as a food since antiquity.
These ancestors of cultivated apple have small, round fruit that rarely grow larger than a golf ball. They ripen in late September to October and are usually green with a pink blush or a golden yellow colour. Garden varieties can vary too, and are also edible.
They may be small and sour, but you can make some amazing recipes with the fruit of the crab apple tree. They have an exceptionally high pectin and acid content which makes them ideal for setting fruit jams and jellies. They also have an excellent, tart and tangy apple flavour.
If you're foraging crab apples from the woods, please follow our sustainable foraging guidelines.
Here are our top picking tips and favourite crab apple recipes.
Crab apples are widespread and fairly common in woods, hedgerows and heaths. Trees are generally small with oval, toothed leaves. The apples can be picked from July to December.
If you’re a fan of sloe gin and fruit liqueurs, make this. It's intense with the appliness of crab apples and you’ll end up with a deliciously golden liqueur with a rich taste. Perfect for a cold winter’s eve by the fire.
Fill a large preserving jar three quarters full with crab apples. Pour sugar over and add gin or vodka. Add any remaining crab apples to the top and seal. Steep for one to two months. Turn the jar daily for the first week and now and then afterwards.
Strain liqueur through two or three layers of muslin and decant into a bottle. Leave for another month or so.
Credit: Islandimages / Alamy Stock Photo
This is a taste bud-tingling amber-pink jelly. It’s perfect for serving with meats. You can pep up the recipe by adding a few chillies, a cinnamon stick, coriander seeds or star anise to the pan.
Tip crab apples into preserving pan (no need to cut them up). Add enough water to just cover them. Bring to the boil, simmer and stir now and then until the fruit has turned mushy.
Allow to cool a little and then pour into a jelly bag and leave to strain overnight into a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy.
Measure the strained juice and pour back into the preserving pan and heat slowly. Add 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice and add to the juice. Stir on a low heat until the sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil.
Boil rapidly until setting point is achieved (test by dropping a spoonful of mixture onto a fridge-cold saucer, as it cools it should wrinkle on the surface). Pour hot jelly into hot sterile jars and seal immediately.
Toffee apples often only get half eaten because they’re too big. But crab apples are the perfect size. This recipe makes 12 toffee crab apples.
Press kebab stick into the centre (core) of each apple.
To make toffee, place all ingredients except apples in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes, until a small blob dropped into a cup of cold water forms a soft ball. Don’t take your eye off as it burns easily.
Remove from heat, tilt it to one side and then dip the apples in. Give them a slow spin to evenly coat in toffee, then place on a piece of greased baking paper on a tray. The toffee takes a minute or two to set.
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