CRAB APPLE (Malus Sylvestris)

Growing Conditions: It is rare in the north of Scotland but common in the rest of the UK where the temperature does not reach such extremes.

A true wild species is a small deciduous tree that flowers in May and has some spines on the twigs and branches. During full blossom, its fragrant and fragile flowers are usually crowded with enthusiastic bees.

The small fruit of the wild crab is yellowish green and in bunches. Fruit varies in size from as small as a cherry to quite sizeable small apples with a reddish flush. The apples can be picked from August to November but are normally at their best at the end of September or early October.

Bartholomew Anglicus noted this fact in his 15th-century encyclopaedia:

“The apples ripen in early autumn and the ground beneath the trees may be littered with them. One should wait until they fall, as they are difficult to pick from the tree, and not fully ripe until they drop”.

Fun fact: The sourness of it gives rise to the expression ‘a crab’ or ‘crabby’, meaning an ill-tempered person (sour as a crab apple).

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