Experimental Homestead

Two Sweet Crabs That Don’t Pinch! Trailman and Centennial, Delicious Super Early Crab Apples,



Here is my review of two crabs that fruited here on Frankentree for the first time ever. Centennial and trailman are very similar and seem to ripen at the same time.  Both have good flavor and very good to excellent texture, even after a recent heat wave with consecutive days over 100 degrees, 101, 103, 103 in the shade.

I have a particular interest in crab apples that are edible out of hand, with good dessert quality and these two really fit that description.   They are not only very good to excellent in eating quality, but they are also the second apples to ripen here, this year in the first two weeks of July.  “First early” apples are usually low in sugar, grainy or mealy and just not that great for eating.  Time will tell more, but I can already tell from just a few samples that these apples are a great find.  I’ll probably be breeding with these in the future as I think excellent dessert crabs are something that needs work and has great potential.  These are super easy to eat, since you can eat the entire fruit with the core, seeds and all.  The seeds only add to the flavor, like an almond flavor filled center.

July 11, 2015 - Posted by | Apples, Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Excellent experiment. Do you find the crab-apples to be stronger trees? I’ve considered hunting down and grafting good-tasting wild plums. They certainly handle a lot more abuse than cultivated varieties.

    Comment by David The Good | July 13, 2015 | Reply

    • I don’t have any full crab trees yet, but I may now! I’ve had a couple trailman since making this video and they really are excellent. The flavor has developed and they are quite sweet. Kind of like big crispy/crunchy grapes. These show no sign of disease. I haven’t noticed any scab on them, but there are very few to judge by.

      Comment by Stevene | July 13, 2015 | Reply

  2. Trailman is very good, and super hardy too. My tree in Fairbanks has never shown a trace of winter damage and fruits heavily and reliably every year–I’ve got a good crop on now. It’s a Canadian cross between Trail and Osman, two older Canadian crabs. the ones I grow have strong banana overtones. Maybe it’s the terroir, or that the summer weather here, with hot days/cool nights, is conducive to producing highly flavored fruit. They’re also subject to watercore here, and I really like them like that. They dry up like candy. I’ve juiced some and made a batch of cyser too. I just topworked another tree and need to propagate a bunch more. Sometimes they crack a little.

    Have you tried Kerr? It’s Dolgo x Haralson, also very hardy. It’s much later, and a good keeper. The flesh is flecked with red and the juice is a beautiful clear pink. The flavor is very complex.

    I’m more and more inclined to crabs. There are decent full size apples that can be grown up here successfully, but in my experience nothing is hardier or more productive than the large crabs. Size is no problem; I just eat four or five instead of one. One I got from the Central Siberia Botanical Garden in Novosibirsk has fruit that hangs all winter on the tree, bletting and drying in the subzero cold, until it attains the texture of a date. The seeds turn soft and enzymatic and microbial action transforms the flavor into something really unique and interesting. Not sure that would work everywhere, but here it supplies awesome food with zero labor. I have a few other of these Siberian cultivars that are interesting. One of them, Palmetta, appears to be graft-compatible with pears, and a friend says he’s crossed it with a pear too. I was thinking about trying to use Ussurian pear as an apple rootstock up here, using Palmetta as an interstem.

    Let me know if you want to try any of that stuff.

    Comment by Vic Johanson | July 15, 2015 | Reply

    • Really interesting comments. I continue to be impressed as I eat more trailman. Only a couple left. No watercore in them so far, though I seem to get a lot of it in other varieties. I’m very interested in any really good dessert crabs for sure. Lets do some trading in scion season. I think I grafted out Kerr, but I’m not sure if it made it or not. Flecked with red sounds interesting. It seems to me that edible crabs and crosses of them with other larger apples could really have a future. Just the earliness and texture of trailman seems to hold great promise for improving early apples in general. I agree about the size. It’s actually much easier to eat crabs than it is to eat large apples because of the small seeds and unobtrusive core. I’d like to see what comes out of crossing trailman or centennial with wickson. I like the flavor of trailman, but it is not sensational or super interesting in any particluar way, at least not so far. I hope it doesn’t go all banana on me, hate those things! So far it’s just very sweet and mild, maybe something like green grapes.

      Comment by Stevene | July 15, 2015 | Reply

    • I see that I have found some guys with a love for the edible crabs, just like me. I would like to try some of those large Siberian crabs and that one that hangs all winter sounds interesting if you have scion to share. I’m right in the very center of Minnesota. Chestnut crab has to be my favorite and I have one tree that is 25 years old and about 8-10 more of those. Also a dolgo that has been in the ground for almost 30 years. Recent grafts and plantings that are not bearing yet, are centennial, wickson, kerr, trailman, golden hornet, whitney, a rootstock crab that I like for wildlife, and a wild crab that is decent eating and ripens late.
      My anaros grafts on dolgo did not take. Any comments on anaros? Any experience with trail or schaefer?

      I would also like scion or any comments on Northland crab.

      I’m not sure if Kinder Krisp is considered a crab or not, but it is worth a try and the growth seems to be fast on dolgo.
      The apples are very good.

      Comment by Art Reuck | July 24, 2015 | Reply

      • I’m pretty intrigued by them. I would definitely be interested in more, but mostly ones that are really high quality out of hand eaters.

        Comment by Stevene | July 25, 2015

      • Chestnut crab is my favorite apple for eating. It is larger than centennial. Taste might be different in your climate without the chilling hours we have in Minnesota.

        Comment by Art Reuck | July 26, 2015

      • I do grow chestnut already. It’s good here! Just starting to look like it’s ripening now. I don’t much care for the “nutty” flavor it develops later, but it is a brightly flavored and delicious apple early in the season.

        Comment by Stevene | July 26, 2015

  3. Art, I’m happy to share scionwood. Post me at squarepegman at gmail dot com and we’ll work it out. Haven’t tried Anaros. I know people who’ve grown Shafer and Trail up here, but I don’t have any experience with them. Not familiar with Northland.

    Comment by Vic Johanson | July 25, 2015 | Reply

    • Evidently Northland is a crab that was hardy for the northern half of Minnesota.

      Comment by Art Reuck | July 26, 2015 | Reply

      • I read that, but I also read that it’s late. Our season is super short.

        Comment by Vic Johanson | July 27, 2015

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