Author: Katherine Witherspoon, Urban Harvest Coordinator at FOUND
Crabapple trees (Malus spp.) are closely related to common apple trees (Malus pumila), but with smaller fruit. As members of the rose family (Rosaceae), they are related to raspberries and blackberries, cherries and peaches, hawthorn, and mountain-ash. Many variations of flowering crabapples exist, and they are planted in urban areas for their showy blossoms.
The tree can reach anywhere between 4-12 m in height at maturity, and typically flower in spring to early summer. The flowers range from white to pink or red.
Crabapple trees have distinctive bark; smooth and grey when the tree is young, and becoming cracked and scaly with age. The leaves are oval-shaped, with small serrations along the leaf edge.
When to Harvest
Crabapples ripen anywhere from spring to autumn. The ripened apples range in colour from red, to yellow-orange, to brown. To test if a crabapple is ready to harvest, slice the apple down the center and examine the seeds; if the seeds are dark brown, they’re ready to pick! You can also test the fruit based on taste and texture; if the fruit tastes bitter and is very hard, it isn’t quite ready. A ripe crabapple should be tart, sweet, and crisp.
How to Harvest
The most common method of harvesting is to hand-pick the the fruits. Grasp the fruit firmly and pull! Place the collected apples in a bucket or basket. If some of the fruits are out of reach, it’s handy to use a ladder (always best to have a partner to hold it steady). You can also collect the fruits that have already fallen to the ground! Don’t forget to consider your surroundings – watch for traffic and other hazards. If you aren’t on your own property, make sure that you are either on public property or have the landowner’s permission!
Sources: Colorado State University, Brandies University Deciduous Trees of the Northeast