If you’ve sworn off of crab apples based on some bad experiences – please give this post a read. Not all crab apples are alike! Different varieties have different features that make them great for different purposes.
There are many varieties of crab apples available on the prairies and the list of available varieties changes from year to year, with new introductions continually being added. They are often used for landscaping purposes because of their beautiful blossoms and colorful foliage.
The different varieties ripen at different times. Earlier in the season, most of our requests to pick were for the Rescue variety of crab apples, great for fresh eating, juice or jelly.
Rescues are best picked when they are slightly under-ripe, as they can be mushy when fully ripe. They do not store well, and need to be used right away. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of our volunteers having negative crab apple experiences this summer. Because it takes at least a week for us to schedule a harvest after a fruit owner places a request, by the time volunteers arrived to pick the fruit was often mushy, wasp ridden and no good. These experiences tend to turn volunteers off of picking crab apples in general. Fruit owners, this is a great reason to get to know your fruit better! If you can request a harvest a little earlier, knowing that your fruit will turn from edible to inedible quite quickly, than it is more likely we can get volunteers out to pick it while it is still in its prime.
These days though, our crab apple harvest requests are mostly for the Dolgo variety of crabs.
All you Jelly makers out there take note! Dolgo crab apples are 3-4 cm in size, and are a beautiful bright red colour. This gives them the reputation of being the best variety of crabs for making jelly, giving great flavor and colour.
Later this month, we may see some requests to harvest the Kerr variety of crab apples. These late season crabs are great for eating fresh, making juice or other processing, and if stored properly, can last for up to 27 weeks!
Some of the other varieties that grow on the prairies are:
- Shafer: apple-crab, mid season (ripens between Rescue and Dolgo), Small sweet fruit good for jellies, juice and fresh eating. Stores better than Rescue.
- Chestnut: mid season, larger variety, fruit is good for eating fresh, processing (Pies, fruit leathers, dried, sauce) and can store for up to 6 weeks
- Trail: mid-season, fruit is good for eating fresh, making juice or other processing
- Trailman: mid-season, fruit is good for eating fresh, making juice or other processing