Crabapples are usually under 2 inches in diameter, so they look more like berries than apples. And they taste dry, bitter, tart, or sour if you eat them raw.
Have you heard of a crabapple that’s bigger and sweeter compared to other crabapples? That’s the Whitney Crabapple for you!
Keep reading to learn about this enlarged and tasty fruit and what you can do with it after planting and harvesting.
Looking to buy a Whitney Crabapple tree? Check availability.
Characteristics of the Whitney Crabapple
The Malus pumila Whitney is a vigorous, heat-tolerant tree that grows upright with a spreading habit. It does well in hardiness zones 3 to 9, being cold-hardy in temperatures as low as negative 30 degrees!
After 2 to 5 years from the first planting, the tree will produce crabapples.
The crabapple has red or yellow skin with pink or yellow stripes and creamy yellow flesh. This firm-skinned crabapple could be mistaken for a chestnut if not for the pink stripes.
A little larger than a golf ball, the crabapple is easier to harvest from the tree. A slender stem is on the top end’s cavity, while the bottom has a closed or partly-opened calyx.
The crisp and juicy Whitney Crabapple offers balanced flavoring, making it perfect for fresh eating. Tangy and sweet, there’s just a hint of tartness, but you barely notice when you eat it.
This crabapple tree is 12–15 feet tall when mature, producing pink and white blossoms in the spring. Its leaves are pointy and deep green, turning yellow in the fall.
The Whitney Crabapple is grafted onto a semi-dwarf rootstock, influencing traits like drought tolerance and pest and disease resistance. Depending on the rootstock type, the tree will grow without needing stakes to support it.
History of the Whitney Crabapple
In the mid-1860s, A.R. Whitney of Whitney Nursery grew this heritage crabapple in Franklin Grove, Illinois. Known as both Whitney No. 20 and Whitney Crab, its seedlings were grown among seeds from Siberian crabapples.
Because of its cold hardiness, disease resistance, heat tolerance, and fruitful production, this is a popular crabapple variety for planting.
Where to Buy Crabapple Trees
Would you like to plant your own Whitney Crabapple? Or try something different from regular apples you may be used to? Stark Bro’s sells bare-root semi-dwarf crabapple trees.
Growing Your Own Whitney Crabapple Tree
This self-pollinating crabapple tree is a good choice for your garden if you don’t have a lot of space. Just one tree is enough to give you 2 to 5 bushels of crabapples, and it’s simple to grow!
The ideal location for the Whitney Crabapple is a spot where it will get six hours of full sunlight. You could plant the tree in the front or side yard or the patio in containers or large planters.
Soil and Spacing
The soil should be loamy and well-draining with a pH level of 6.0–7.0.
Place the root ball gently from its container in the 2-foot-wide and 1-foot-deep holes. Then apply some organic matter in the hole before filling it in.
Do you have more than one tree to plant to increase pollination and gain a more bountiful production? If you’ve got enough room in your garden, space the trees 12–15 feet apart from each other.
Watering and Feeding
Water the tree regularly when you first plant it. After it’s established, give it an inch of water every week so the soil stays moist. You could also apply a layer of mulch around the tree to retain moisture.
Fertilizer isn’t really necessary if you plant the Whitney Crabapple in nutrient-rich soil. To ensure its nutrient intake, apply a little compost around the tree’s base in the spring and fall.
In late winter, you may prune the tree during its dormancy to maintain its shape so it fits your yard. That goes, especially if you’re planting it in a container. Don’t forget to remove any dead branches and suckers!
Pest and Disease Control
These are a few pests you’ll need to watch out for when caring for your Whitney Crabapple:
- Aphids: They damage the leaves by feeding off their juices.
- Codling moths: They infest the crabapples with worms.
- Deer: They eat crabapples that have an attractive scent and sweet taste.
Crabapple tree diseases like apple scab, fire blight, and cedar apple rust are what the Whitney Crabapple is resistant to. But to avoid or treat powdery mildew, prune the crabapple tree for air circulation or spray the leaves with horticultural oil.
Harvesting and Storage
Late August to early September is when the crabapples will ripen. As you harvest them, note that they tend to brown and bruise easily, so handle them carefully.
Whether you plant the tree on the lawn or near a walkway, harvest the fruit when it’s time. These crabapples make quite a mess when they drop, requiring an occasional cleanup.
The crabapples will last for one to two months if you refrigerate them.
Health Benefits of Whitney Crabapples
The sugar content in the Whitney Crabapple is 11.39%. This will save you from adding more sweeteners if you make the crabapples into a recipe.
Nutrients of edible crabapples such as this variety are similar to those in regular apples. They’re rich in vitamins A and C, so they’ll build up your immunity. Other benefits they have include lowering cholesterol, aiding in digestion, healing wounds faster, and preventing premature aging.
Ways to Enjoy Whitney Crabapples
If you’d like to preserve these crabapples, try canning or pickling three pounds of them! A canning or pickling recipe for hot syrup includes sugar or honey, vinegar, water, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom seeds.
Due to its sugar content, use less sugar or honey than you usually would with the Whitney Crabapple.
Jam and Jelly
The high amount of pectin in Whitney Crabapples makes them great for cooking into jams and jellies. Bake them with cinnamon and sugar, and they’ll burst with sweet sugar-and-spicy goodness!
If you enjoy applesauce, you may like crabapple sauce, especially made from the Whitney Crabapple. After washing, you can run the fruits through a food mill or blender. After all, cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be the only topping to your turkey!
Crabapple cider is as good as regular apple cider, hard or sweet. The sugar level and mild astringency in Whitney Crabapples make them sweet enough to drink as blended or processed cider.
Note that if you make the crabapples into cider, their sugar will ferment to 5+% alcohol.
The Not-so-Crabby Whitney Crabapple
A bigger crabapple with a sweeter taste than that of other crabapples makes for an ideal addition to your garden. The Whitney Crabapple is one fruit from a crabapple tree that will leave a more desirable taste in your mouth.
Visit our crabapple trees page to learn about more edible varieties and how else you can prepare and enjoy the fruits!
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With a lifelong appreciation for the vibrant hues and serene beauty of landscapes, Sarah Keck brings a wealth of practical and observational gardening knowledge to her writing. Her hands-on experience stems from years of assisting her mother in tending a diverse array of plants, mastering the art of plant care through careful adherence to proven horticultural practices.
A seasoned observer, Sarah delights in the study and admiration of flourishing flower gardens and lush greenery during her frequent strolls through local parks and the quiet streets of her neighborhood. Her natural curiosity drives her to investigate various plant species, deepening her understanding of the flora she encounters.
In addition to her botanical pursuits, Sarah cherishes the culinary arts, drawing from her college experiences of handling and preparing fresh produce. Her penchant for discovery leads her to continually refine her methods, which she eagerly documents and shares with fellow gardening enthusiasts.