How to Tell When Crabapples are Ripe

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I’ve been watching the crabapple trees near our house closely, and it’s almost time to pick them! If you’ve never picked crabapples before, here’s a simple way to tell when they’re ripe and ready!

Ripe Crabapples

Just cut a few open around their equator, and look at the seeds. If they’re brown, they’re ripe. The crabapples that I tested today also had a bit of give when I squeezed them (and that’s another good sign that they’re ripe).

Note: While the crabapples shown here are red, many will be a yellow-orange color when they’re ripe. That’s why you go by the seeds and not the skins.

I’m planning to use my crabapples to make applesauce, apple butter, apple jelly and apple pie filling. You can pretty much use them in place of the apples called for in any baked/cooked recipe. Pretty cool, huh?

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  1. Appreciate this info! When I checked one of ours about 2 weeks ago the seeds were still a bright red. I’m patiently (well sort of) waiting to make my first batch of crabapple jelly. I’ve done other kinds over the years, but this’ll be my first time for crabapple. 🙂

  2. Hello Erin
    I was so pleased to read your tips on identifying when crab apples are ready, as I am patiently waiting for my first crop.

    I will be very interested in any of your lovely sounding recipes when you have them available. 🙂

  3. Thanks for your informative information about crab apples. We just moved to a house that has a huge crab appletree. (I’ve spent the past 40 minutes reading other websites un.til I found yours!) We were told it was a Choke Cherry – but your web site confirmed through your words and pictures…Thanks so much!

    Can’t wait to start baking…according to your info on the seeds though they aren’t ready yet…so I have time to get my sieve back from my daughter!


    1. I think it’ll still work, as long as they’re not super unripe. You may just find that it takes a bit more sugar to sweeten them. Make a small test batch of something, and see how it goes.

  4. thanks for posting both sauce and butter recipes… we just bought a house with a crab apple tree and just spent the past 3 days making sauce & butter and canning them for the first time ever. All turned out great! 2 questions: 1. Lemon juice, is it not needed for acidity? 2 are the cloves optional for the butter? 3. are air bubbles in jars after canning okay?

    1. Yum! Sounds like you’ll be enjoying tasty treats this winter 🙂 The lemon juice isn’t necessary; crabapples are acidic enough on their own. You can definitely leave the cloves out of the crabapple butter, if you prefer. And it’s normal to still be seeing some air bubbles (apples have a lot of air in them and you introduce more when you mash them up).

      I recommend checking out this FAQ about homemade applesauce. It has lots of great information.

  5. We are looking for the outer portion (skin?) to be dark when ripe, correct? The inside of the seeds will be light/white?

    1. Right. The outside of the seed will be dark brown, but the inside of the seed will be light/white. You can see an example of that in the photo at the top of this post. Hope that helps.

  6. Keep in mind that there are all sorts of crabapple trees. Just taste them to see if they are good. I have my eye on a neighbor’s crabapple tree. The wee apples are bigger than most and have a wonderful flavor. I might beg some apples. They never use them.

    1. Sounds like they’re overripe. Crabapples have a long harvest season, just like regular apples. The ones you checked were probably early ripeners. If you have access to more crabapples, I’d check those. If not, make a note to check earlier next year. I’d start checking in August, until you figure out when that particular tree ripens.

      1. My crab apple seeds are white on the outside. A few brown ones but not many. They taste sweet and some are starting to go brown inside….lol not sure what to think.

  7. Crabapples make an amazing wine, and if you let it sit long enough exposed to the air, a wonderful raw crabapple cider vinegar. Also, the pectin content is so high that you can make your own pectin, preserve it, and use it in place of Certo or Sure-Gel in making jellies and jams, or making your own “Good Seasons” salad dressing which calls for powdered pectin. Will be picking my crabapples this week and start by making pickled crabapples! The list goes on!!!

  8. I just picked some Dolgo Crab apples from our two trees. We use them mainly for apple saudce. We mix them with either MacIntosh or Granny Smith, two other trees we have. Dolgos are a litte too tart for sauce by themselves but really add some zest to the Macs, or any other apple.

  9. I live in Northeast Montana now, and before was in the wilderness Rocky Mountains. We are truly Blessed in this genorous land here that never stops giving of itself. All year, berries of all kinds, trees loaded with many fruits as well as ground variety of foods. But this year for the first time in the 7yrs I’ve been on my small plot of earth, my tiny crab tree has multiplied 10 fold of its fruit. As if it knew there was to be an economy crunch, a drought and a shortage of pollination? I am so amazed that I simply must take as much as i can advantage of these hard times and can every Crabapple Recipe that I can find and hope that I do it well. Thank you for your advice and knowledge as well as recipes. And my variety is unusual and may be Canadian, as I am just 40 miles south of the northern border of Montana and Canada. The area has an abundance of Crabapple trees, enough for the deer as well as the birds to share with us!

  10. We picked our first crab apples at Woodman Hill Orchards in Vergennes, Vt two seasons back. First foray into jelly which was yummy. Now, the tree in our yard has produced enough to ‘pick at home’ here in Glenville, NY, so your ripeness info is most helpful. Thanks, Dave B @ Glenville Maple Syrup.

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