In planning our heirloom apple orchard, we were looking for a few hardy, reliable crabapples to act as pollinators. Most commonly crabapples are used for pollination, but the fruit are left to the birds. In my research, I was surprised to find that Dolgo crabapple is both an excellent pollinator, and produces incredibly tasty fruit. Double win!
Dolgo crab apples have an acidic, sweet-tart flavor that reminds me of a sugar-coated cranberry. The fruit are large for a crabapple but quite small by apple standards, about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Each little olive shaped fruit is crisp and juicy, with a bright red skin. The color of the skin bleeds into the flesh as you bite it, and gives anything made with dolgo crabapples a bright red hue.
Scott Farm, a local heirloom orchard, notes that “Their best use is in sauces, sorbets, chutney or as a condiment for meat or poultry. They make a beautiful rose-colored jelly. During harvest, the crew will often use these crabapples to suck on for a boost to help finish filling that last apple bin late in the day.”
I find the fruit incredibly refreshing, and I can imagine they’d give you an extra boost after a long day in the sun.
Originally from Kazakhstan, the dolgo crab apple tree is one of the hardiest available. It’s been shown to withstand cold to least -40 degrees F. It’s also incredibly disease resistant. The trees bloom over an extended period, which makes them an excellent pollinator for diverse orchards.
The fruit ripens in August and September, but they’ll hold on the tree well into December in mild years. When the last few fruits do fall mid-winter, they’re a favorite mid-winter treat for deer. That makes dolgo crabs a great choice for planting near deer hunting plots, allow for the harvest of more than just fruit. I like the idea that a single tree will help me fill both my cider cellar and freezer.
Where to Buy Dolgo Crabapple Trees
Unlike a lot of our orchard choices, dolgo crabapples trees are widely available. Several local nurseries in central Vermont carry the trees. Since they’re so popular as an ornamental tree, they’re available at well-stocked nurseries.
If you don’t happen to have a nursery that carries heirloom varieties, there are plenty of nurseries selling them online through Amazon and most have free shipping.