Crabapple

(Malus sylvestris) Roasted and presumably sweetened, and put into ale makes Lamb's Wool, a favourite Christmas drink at one time (Dyer. 1883). Even without the ale, roasted crabs were a favourite fruit in days gone by (Ellacombe), though nobody would take the trouble to cook them these days. However, crabapple tea is still sometimes made.by slicing the apples without peeling them, simmering for an hour and sweetening (Jason Hill). Actually, crabapples are highly astringent, and not fit to be gathered until touched by frost, which cuts the acrid taste considerably (Loewenfeld). A very sour liquid knows as verjuice used to be extracted from crabs, quite popular in the country in the 19th century, but used for veterinary practice long before that. Tusser, for instance, advised the husbandman:

Of vergis be sure

Poore cattle to cure.

It was also used for curdling milk, and for treating sprains (tart, vinegary cider was still being used as a formentation for muscular sprains in the first half of the 20th century (Savage). A drink called wherry in Yorkshire used to be made from the pulp after the verjuice had been expressed (Holloway).

There seems to be very little folklore attached to the tree or its fruit, though it is recorded that Somerset girls would gather them on Michaelmas Day to store till Old Michaelmas (10 October), when they would form them into the initials of their suitors. Those in the best condition would make the best husbands (Tongue) (but when was the inspection made?). There is, too, a suggestion that crabapples were used in some way for sex magic, and that if several were eaten (especially with cucumber and cheese), they would inspire erotic dreams (Haining) (not surprisingly, but one would doubt the eroticism of the dreams). And there is a superstition from Kentucky that must be a virtual impossibility - if you can eat a crabapple, without frowning, you will get the man (or woman) you want (Thomas & Thomas).

There were some medical uses in past times. The verjuice already mentioned was recommended as a remedy "for the falling down of the uvula", and also for sore throats, "and all disorders of the mouth" (Hill. 1754). Wesley's remedy for "eyes blear'd" was to drop in them crabapple juice, while "infantile ague" was dealt with by the Physicians of Myddfai by roasting crabs, and taking "some of the pulp, and half as much honey: let this be the child's only sustenance for a day and a night". Gerard recommended the verjuice to take away "the heat of burnings, scaldings, and all inflammations", and provided it was put on early enough, it stopped, he said, any blistering. He prescribed it too for various skin ailments, for it "taketh away the heat of S. Antonies fire, all inflammations whatsoever", etc.,

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