Have you ever spotted a tree laden with what appear to be miniature apples and wondered about them? Those are likely crab apples, a delightful variety of apples that are often overlooked.
Crab apples, with their diminutive size and vibrant colors, are not just ornamental but also edible, offering a flavor profile that’s quite distinct from their larger apple cousins.
Crab apples are known for their tart and sour taste, which can be attributed to their high malic and citric acid content. This tartness and a hint of sweetness make them a fascinating ingredient to explore.
In this article, we’ll discuss their taste, texture, appearance, and various ways to enjoy them.
How Do Crab Apples Taste?
When you first bite into a crab apple, you’re likely to be turned off by a burst of tartness and astringency. This tart flavor, which can be quite intense, is a signature characteristic of crab apples. It’s a result of their high content of malic and citric acids, which give the fruit its distinctive sour punch.
But don’t let this initial tartness deter you. There’s more to the flavor of crab apples than meets the tongue at first bite.
As you continue to chew, you’ll notice a subtle sweetness that balances the tartness. This sweetness is more pronounced in some varieties and in fully ripe crab apples. The flavor is often compared to that of tart apples like Haralson or Liberty.
Their ripeness can also influence the taste of crab apples. Very ripe crab apples tend to lose some of their tartness, leaning more towards a mellow sweetness. So, depending on when you pick them, you can experience a range of flavors from the same tree.
Varieties Of Crab Apples
There are numerous varieties of crab apples, each with its own unique taste and appearance. Here are a few notable ones:
- Dolgo Crab Apples: These are known for their deep red color and elongated shape. Dolgo crab apples have a tart yet sweet flavor, making them excellent for making jellies and sauces.
- Floribunda Crab Apples: Also known as Japanese crab apples, they have a slightly milder flavor compared to other varieties. They’re often used in pickles and preserves.
- Hopa Crab Apples: These crab apples are appreciated for their sweet-tart flavor. They are larger than most other varieties and are great for making pies and tarts.
- Siberian Crab Apples: Known for their intense tartness, They are often used in recipes that call for a strong apple flavor, such as ciders and vinegar.
Comparing Crab Apples With Other Fruits
Crab apples are unique but share some similarities with other fruits. Here’s how they compare:
- Common Apples: Crab apples are more tart and sour compared to common apples. They also have a higher pectin concentration, making them ideal for jams and jellies.
- Cherries: While crab apples can look like cherries on the tree, their taste differs. Cherries are generally sweeter, while crab apples have a more tart flavor profile.
- Plums: Both crab apples and plums can have a tart flavor, but plums usually have sweeter flesh and a more juicy texture.
- Quinces: Quinces and crab apples are often used in similar ways in cooking. Both have a tart flavor and high pectin content, making them good for jellies and preserves. However, quinces have a more aromatic and slightly spicy flavor.
Do Crab Apples Taste Good?
Not all crab apples are created equal.
In my yard, eating our crab apples raw without getting an upset stomach is impossible. So they must be cooked and sugar added.
Some varieties are more palatable than others, and the taste can also vary depending on the level of ripeness. Very ripe crab apples tend to be sweeter and less tart, making them more enjoyable to eat raw.
So, if you’re new to crab apples, it might be worth trying a few different varieties and stages of ripeness to find what you enjoy the most.
What Do Crab Apples Look Like?
Crab apples are small in size, typically ranging from 0.25” to 2” in diameter. This makes them look like miniature versions of regular apples, hence their name.
Crab apples come in various colors, adding to their visual appeal. You can find them in red, orange, yellow, and even green shades. Some varieties are deep, rich red, while others might be vibrant yellow or a mix of colors. The fruit’s skin is usually smooth and can have a glossy sheen when ripe.
Do Crab Apples Have Seeds?
Yes, like their larger counterparts, crab apples do have seeds. Each fruit typically contains four to ten small seeds. The seeds are located in the core of the fruit, just as they are in regular apples.
It’s worth noting that, like regular apple seeds, crab apple seeds contain small amounts of a compound called amygdalin, which can release cyanide when ingested. However, you would need to consume a large number of seeds, and chew them thoroughly, for this to pose a risk.
As a result, it’s generally safe to eat crab apples, but it’s best to avoid eating the seeds.
How To Enjoy Crab Apples On Their Own
While crab apples are often used in cooking, they can also be enjoyed raw, especially when they’re fully ripe. Eating crab apples raw allows you to experience their unique tart flavor and crisp texture.
However, due to their high acidity and astringency, they might be too tart for some palates when eaten raw.
If you’re planning to eat raw crab apples, choose fully ripe fruits. These will be sweeter and less tart than unripe ones. You can tell a crab apple is ripe by its vibrant color and slightly soft texture.
To prepare crab apples for eating raw, simply wash them thoroughly under running water. You can then cut them into slices, just like you would with a regular apple, and remove the seeds. The skin of crab apples is edible, so you can choose to leave it on for extra texture and flavor.
Crab Apple FAQs
What do crab apples taste like?
Crab apples have a distinctive tart and sour flavor, which can be intense. They also have a subtle sweetness that becomes more pronounced when they are fully ripe.
What makes a crab apple different from an apple?
Crab apples are essentially miniature versions of regular apples. They are usually more tart and sour than regular apples due to their higher content of malic and citric acids. Crab apples also have a higher concentration of pectin, which makes them ideal for making jellies and jams.
Are crab apples edible?
Yes, crab apples are edible. While they are often too tart to eat raw, they can be used in a variety of cooked dishes. They are excellent for making jellies, sauces, pies, and savory dishes.
Are crab apples usually sour to taste?
Yes, crab apples are usually sour to taste. This is due to their high content of malic and citric acids. However, very ripe crab apples can lose some of their tartness and lean more toward sweetness.