Apple – Malus SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Not Just Pie of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, mishiimin, apple isn’t just an ordinary edible fruit tree. It also has medicinal qualities. It is another plant that was brought to North America by European colonists, but the species originated in Central Asia. Our apples wild ancestor malus sieversii still grows there today.

When a wonderful local lady told me there were apple trees all over their family property because of a relative chucking his cores all over the place, I followed suit. And with even more fervor once Makwa visited. There are many old crabapples and heirloom apple trees around these parts. The ones around the studio made for legendary pies. I noticed some of them can hold their fruit for months until a hard Autumn frost finally makes them rot off.

Edible Uses of Apple

Raw, dehydrated, stewed, baked. Apples are rich in pectin so they make excellent jellies. I love old fashioned apple pie but have to recommend you give a rich Amish sour cream apple pie recipe a go. Here’s the recipe I use:

Crumb Topping

1⁄2 c brown sugar

1⁄4 c butter

1⁄3 c flour

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the crumb topping ingredients with a fork.


1 c sour cream

1 egg

3⁄4 c sugar

2 tbsp flour

1⁄4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 1⁄2 c peeled and diced 

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (I recommend the usual egg + milk brushed on and lightly prebaked, then use foil to prevent edges from browning too much)

Preheat oven to 400F. Beat the cream and egg together. Add your flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Fold in apples.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove pie from oven and spread with crumb topping. Then bake another 20 minutes. It’s super-rich!

A neighbor’s bear friend likes to wait till the apples rot and ferment on the ground to eat them, then staggers back into the woods. Who isn’t a fan of ciders, fermented or not?

The skin is the most nutrient-dense part!

Medicinal Uses of Apple

Apple is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive

Medicinal tags include Diuretic and Laxative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes preferably unripe apples peeled and grated for diarrhea. Aged apple wine was used as a cure-all, but nowadays it’s more apple cider vinegar that’s all the rage. (Here’s how to make your own apple cider vinegar from Farmer’s Almanac.)

When making herbals, vinegar can be used to pull out more plant constituents than water alone. Herbal Medicine Maker’s features medical vinegar infusions on pages183-4. He says roots and bark especially need vinegar to be heated to the point of infusion, that is just to the boiling point, but don’t let it boil. This is to coagulate any albumin in that plant materials to prevent fermentation and spoilage of the preparation.

With leaves and flowers, you can macerate your preparation for about two weeks, shaking frequently.

1 Part plant to 2 parts vinegar basic is the basic recipe, and you may need to add more if the plant sucks it in. While you can use fresh or dried herbs, use more vinegar with fresh. If you use closer to a 1:5 ratio you’ll increase the shelf life. Use glass containers. And discard if mold or bubbles form.

Crab apple is also one of Dr. Bach’s floral remedies.

Alternative Uses of Crabapple

Applewood is used for carving, especially bowls, but it does tend to crack. Fruitwoods, in general, tend to crack and split.

The sawdust can be deliciously used for smoking meat.

Black bear eating apples on trail cam
And my favourite other use: apple trees are the best trail cam subject!

Growing Malus SPP.

Our local frosts can stunt store-bought apple trees so propagating proven local trees or searching high and low for frost resistant, cold loving varieties are the way to go. And maybe toss those cores into the bush too! While apple isn’t native here I have never read anything to derail the idea of planting them. They like full sun and well drained soil. The bears sure seem to love them.


Apple seeds eaten alone in large quantities can be poisonous.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Trees of Ontario

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

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