Which Crabapple Tree Cultivars Have the Tastiest Fruits?
Crabapple trees (Malus spp.) are ornamental fruit trees grown primarily for their spring blooms. They may have pink flowers, white flowers or red flowers depending on the cultivar.
Like apples, flowering crabapple trees also produce edible fruit. Crabapple trees are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 8.
Apples vs. Crabapples
Apples and crabapples belong to the same genus in the rose family. The primary difference between the two is size. Crabapple fruit is usually less than 2 inches wide, while regular apples are considerably larger.
The difference between apples and crabapples is size. Crabapples are usually less than 2 inches wide.
Are All Crabapples Edible?
There are approximately 800 known crabapple cultivars. While they all produce edible fruit, the fruit tends to be very small, and in most cases, the fruit is too tart to be consumed raw. Instead, crabapples are primarily used to make jams and jellies.
Crabapple Cultivars With the Best-Tasting Fruit
If you are growing crabapple trees for their fruit, these are considered some of the best crabapple edible cultivars.
Centennial: One of the hardiest crabapple trees around, the Centennial crabapple (Malus 'Centennial,' zones 3 to 8) produces large orange-red fruit that is among the best types of crabapple to consume fresh. However, this tree is not a good option if you plan on storing fruit, as it does not keep very well. Centennial is an early season cultivar that ripens in mid-August.
Chestnut: If you prefer a crabapple that you can store for several weeks, consider Chestnut (Malus 'Chestnut,' zones 3 to 8), which is also quite hardy. The fruit of the Chestnut crabapple has yellow flesh and a nutty flavor. This midseason cultivar ripens in early September.
- Whitney: Another cultivar that produces large fruit suitable for eating is Whitney (Malus 'Whitney,' zones 3 to 8), which is often used for pickling and preserving. The fruit of this cultivar ripens in late August and early September.
- Dolgo: The 1-inch fruit produced by the Dolgo crabapple (Malus 'Dolgo,' zones 3 to 8) can be used to make jelly. The fruit is ready to harvest in late August. Dolgo is resistant to fire blight and scab, two diseases of apples and crabapples.
Plant crabapple trees in full sun for the best flowering and fruit production.
Growing Edible Crabapple Trees
Crabapple trees, like most fruit trees, grow best in full sun. Therefore, plant these ornamental trees where they will receive at least eight hours of sunlight a day. When choosing a location for your crabapple tree, it is important to keep in mind that the fruit can become messy.
When first planted, crabapple trees require regular deep irrigation to become established, but eventually, they become quite tolerant of drought and need less than half an inch of water a week.
While many crabapple trees are self-pollinating to some extent, meaning that they can set fruit with their own pollen with the help of pollinators like bees, they will produce more fruit if grown near a different compatible variety of crabapple or apple tree.
Crabapples also require regular pruning, which is employed not only to shape the canopy of the tree and remove dead or diseased branches but also to eliminate the suckers that tend to grow from the base of the tree.
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: Yard and Garden - Identify and Enjoy Crabapples
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Crabapple
- University of Minnesota: All University of Minnesota Apple Varieties
- North Dakota State University Extension: The Best Crabapple Cultivars for North Dakota
- Gurney's: Whitney Crabapple Tree
- Utah State University Extension: Crabapples in the Landscape
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.