Using wild crab apples

I have a young crab apple tree in our wildlife area that I’ve been watching for the past few years. It came up on its own several years ago and this is the first year it produced fruit.

To my surprise, the little apples on this tree are very tasty — plenty of apple flavor with a hint of almond after-taste. I’ve tasted other crab apples in the past and many of them were either flavorless or downright inedible.

These are about two or three times the size of the typical flowering crab apple fruit you see in people’s front yard but, they’re still too small to do much with. Fortunately the apple core is so small I can eat the whole fruit without really noticing the seeds. However, you can only eat so many crap apples before you lose your taste for them.

Since I have so many of them, I decided to try to make a version of rumtopf , a concoction made with fruit, sugar and rum. With their long stems and deep red color, they look a lot like cherries. So I just washed them, picked off the blossom ends and dropped them into alcohol and sugar. Instead of rum, I used brandy because that’s all I had on hand.

Crab apples ready for sugar and alcohol.

Crab apples ready for sugar and alcohol.

I’m really not sure how my rumtopf will turn out but I know it won’t go to waste even if it’s not perfect.

Meanwhile, there are still loads of crab apples left on the tree. The frosty temperatures have mellowed out their flavor even more and they’re still nice and crisp.

As for the rest of the crab apples, I think leave them for the wildlife — that was the whole point in having a wild area in the first place.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.