How to Use Crabapples (and Not Waste Free Fruit!)

crab apple

What’s the last thing that you got for free? Was it a buy-one-get-one-freebie or a free gift when you signed up for a subscription service? The last thing that I got for free was a harvest of crabapples in my backyard. They were free because I never even planted the trees (they are courtesy of my home’s previous owners). How will you use crabapples if you should happen to find a free supply?

BTW, if you don’t have a crabapple tree, and you want to give them a try, look for them at your local farmers market. Alternatively, a neighbor may have a tree and be more than happy to share.

Is it safe to eat crabapples?

Yes. I can personally vouch for the fact that I’ve eaten a crabapple and lived to tell about it. I have not, however, eaten a lot of them at one time. Why? First of all, they are very tart and pithy so eating more than one is not enjoyable. Also, anecdotal reports suggest that eating a few at a time can upset your stomach.

So, although a reasonable amount is safe to eat, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the potentially fatal cyanide.

According to, “Crabapples are essentially the same species as apple trees. The seeds of both of these trees contain a form of cyanide called cyanogenic glycosides. Cyanide is a toxic…However, the average American eats around 16.9 pounds of fresh apples every year and reports no toxic effects. Despite the presence of cyanide in the seeds, most people don’t eat the core. Even when apple seeds are ingested, they usually pass through the gut without being broken down. You would have to eat lots of crabapple seeds and grind or chew them up for the cyanide to take effect.”

What the heck do I do with crabapples?

For years, I simply added my crabapple harvest to my compost bin, but that’s not the most effective (or enjoyable) use for them.

Cook with them:

Check out these recipes for crabapple jelly, bread pudding, pickles, butter, and spiced apples.

Get crafty: 

Crabapples can be used in fun fall crafts.

Create a Halloween witch puppet by dehydrating a peeled crabapple. Put the dried apple on the top of a craft stick or chop stick. Push whole cloves into the apple for eyes and a nose. Use small pieces of fabric to dress the witch in a cape. Some yarn or dried hay glued on the top of the apple will make hair.

Craft a fall wreath. Peel a crabapple and core it so that you have a hole through its center. Now, slice the apple so that you have circles with a center hole cut out of them (like a tire shape). Dehydrate crabapple slices and thread them onto stiff floral wire. Tie the ends together to form a circle, and add a festive bow or ribbon.

Medicinal uses:

I’m not a doctor or homeopathic healer. Although I’ve never used crabapples medicinally, I’m intrigued by some reading I’ve done about their medicinal uses.

According to, “The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids.” They have been used to relieve constipation, and the astringent juice, which is rich in tannin, is helpful in chronic diarrhea.

According to Natural Medicinal Herbs, “The crushed fruit pulp can be used as a poultice to heal inflammations or small flesh wounds.”

Related on Organic Authority
How to Store Apples you grow or Harvest
Walmart to Battle Food Waste by Selling ‘Ugly’ Apples
An Apple a Day…May Kill You? Controversial Diphenylamine on 80 Percent of U.S. Apples

photo of crabapple via