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Crab Apple

Crab Apple

Beating the birds to the Crabapples (Malus)

Crabapples are important landscaping plants in many parts of the world, including Australia. Their bright and fragrant flowers and add a touch of colour and perfume to many a city street.

Many people allow the birds to have their way with the crabapple fruit, but crabapples are delicious and can delight the human palate as well. 
Crabapples have flavour that is much more intense than regular apples, too much so for most people. It has a concentrated tartness which can be an asset and put to good use.

Crabapples can be made into some of the tastiest and most desirable jelly on the planet. All you need to do is collect the fruits, clean them, cut them in half, then boil them until they are soft. Now, strain the juice away from the fruit and set the fruit aside. It is the water that you have been boiling them in that becomes the jelly, not the fruit itself. Simply add sugar (about 1 litre of sugar for each litre of juice) and boil until it gels. Do NOT add commercial pectin, as the fruits are filled to the brim with natural pectin.  Ladle into sealable jars, sterilize, and store in a cool place.

Now, take the left over fruit. Mash it and then and strain through a sieve to remove the seeds, skins, and other tough parts. The strained pulp then becomes crabapple butter. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and whatever other spices you deem appropriate. Boil and jar the same way that you did with the jelly.

There are several cultivars of crabapples sold in Australia. Some do not set fruit because breeders have turned the reproductive parts of the flowers into extra petals. Here is a partial list of those that set fruit suitable for jelly.

Be sure to ask at the nursery when you buy the trees whether or not they will produce fruit:
Golden Hornet – medium-sized yellow fruit
Gorgeous - medium-sized red fruit
Jack Humm – fairly large and luscious red fruits
Jack Downie – Medium-sized red fruits, prized for jelly
Sutyzam – Small red fruits packed with flavour
Purple Rain – purple flowers and small purple fruit
Schmidtcutleaf – small yellow fruits
Wandin Pride – decorative weeping branches and edible red fruit
Veitchii – clusters of red or orange fruits

Image: Debu55y/Shutterstock

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