Unusual & Old Fashioned Fruit Trees

The Crab Apple

Crab Apple trees are normally thought of as ornamental trees only, but they do produce a worthwhile crop of fruits, that although small and tart compared to a normal apple, are very useful in the kitchen. Once they have fully ripened Crab Apple jelly is easy to make because the fruit is high in Pectin which is necessary to set jams and jellies. Up until the Middle Ages Crab Apples were also used to make an early type of vinegar that was used in pickling, before grapes were imported.

Other ways to cook with Crab Apples involved spiking them with a knife and heating them in a pan with spiced vinegar and sugar. Then the apples were stored in jars, with some of the solution, until wanted and served up with game and red meats. Although tart, the addition of one or two chopped Crab apples to ordinary fruit pies and flans will add a little more bite to the preparation.

There are many varieties of Crab Apples sold in Garden Centres for both their blossom and colourful Autumn fruits that can be red or yellow. Other gardeners grow them because they are an excellent pollinator for most other desert and cooking apple trees due in part to their long flowering period. In gardens where they are planted, insects, particularly bees, are drawn to their blossom in the Spring in huge numbers, so the trees also improve general pollination of flowers in the garden.

As with many fruit trees they can be found in small column varieties that can be grown in pots on patios, and others up to full size 20 or 30 foot trees. They are easy to grow and will fruit well with little attention as long as they have moisture in the ground when the fruit is developing.

Malus, as Crab Apples are properly called, can be found on sale at any Garden Centre with other fruit trees. Varieties include the yellow fruiting Golden Hornet and red species Robusta. Most Crabs have white blossom, but there are some, such as the Cashmere Crab, that have pink blossom and red leaves for added colour.

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