Bald Head Island Conservancy

Field Guide: Southern Crabapple, North Carolina’s Native Apple Tree

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by Desiree Bridge, Assistant Retail Manager, Turtle Central

The southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia) is known by many names including narrowleaf crabapple and wild crab.  This species of crabapple is found in the Southern and Eastern United States and grows best in low elevations preferring mild winters. Southern crabapple is considered a species of concern in some states and would make a wonderful addition to gardens for those wishing to provide for local wildlife including pollinators. Though perhaps not the best for eating raw, the crabapple does make wonderful jellies and jams. Early settlers who did not bring with them seeds for growing, eating, or cider-making apples from the Old World found crabapples to be an easy substitute for apple pies and puddings. Below is an old recipe in which you could use dried crabapples to make a pie. Drying apples was a common way of preserving them in the past. This Thanksgiving, before you dig into your favorite dessert, think of the humble crabapple and how it would have been welcomed baked into a warm pie.  

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Apple Pie-Take two quarts dried apples, put them into an earthen pot that contains one gallon,  fill it with water and set it in a hot oven, adding one handful of cranberries; after baking one hour full up the pot again with water; when done and the apple cold, strain it, and thereto the  juice of three or four limes, raisins, sugar, orange peel and cinnamon to your taste; lay in paste. Bake till done.  

American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, 1796 

Drying apples in a hearth kitchen-Peel and core your apples before slicing into thick wedges.  Taking a clean strong string and a sewing needle, pierce your apple in the center, tying a knot  on both sides to keep the apples from touching each other as you string them up. Once done, hang in a dry kitchen with good ventilation. Leave hanging till dried through. Before using in recipes reconstitute in hot water or brandy.


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