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Shakespeare’s Garden: Crabapple

Crabapple is the name given to several deciduous trees in the species Malus, a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes cherry, lady’s mantle, and firethorn. The plants may be mounded or shrubby and grow 12-24″/year to 15-20′ tall. The bark is grayish brown and smooth when young but becomes thin, scaly and vertically cracked with maturity. The green to dark green leaves may be tinted with red, purple or bronze and have serrated to crenate margins. Clusters of pink or white flowers with five petals appear in the spring, more abundantly in some years than others, and give way to round fleshy fruits that are red, orange, yellow or green, 1/4-3/4 ” wide, and ripen in the fall. The fruits vary greatly in fleshiness and sourness but are eaten by a variety of animals. Crabapple is grown for both its fruit and display of flowers. It is native to the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere and can be grown in average, medium moist, well drained soil, in full sun to partial shade, in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8. Photo Credit Wikipedia

  1. Winter’s song contributes to the end of the play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, act v, sc . 2 (935 )

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
“Tu-whit to-who.” A merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

2. The Fool and King Lear banter. King Lear, act i , sc. 5 ( 14)

Fool: Shalt see thy other daughter will use thee kindly,
for, though she’s as like this as a crab’s like an
apple, yet I can tell what I can tell.
Lear: What canst tell, boy?
Fool: She will taste as like this as a crab does to a crab.
Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’ th’ middle
on ’s face?

3. Caliban swears to be Stephano’s subject. The Tempest, act ii , sc. 2 ( 171 )

I prithee, let me bring thee where Crabs grow.

4. Petruchio and Katherine engage in word play. The Taming of the Shrew , act ii , sc . I (229) . .

Petruchio: Nay, come, Kate, come, you must not look so sour.

Katherine: It is my fashion, when I see a Crab.

Petruchio: Why, here’s no Crab, and therefore look not sour.

5. Menenius welcomes Coriolanus back to Rome. Coriolanus, act ii , sc . I ( 205)
We have some old Crab trees here at home that will not Be grafted to your relish..

6. At the death of Gloucester, Suffolk addresses Warwick.
2nd Henry VI, act iii , sc . 2 ( 222);.
…, noble stock
Was graft with crab-tree slip, whose fruit thou art

7. In the palace yard, a porter tries to control the crowd that has gathered for the Princess Elizabeth’s christening. Henry VIII, act v, sc . 4 ( 7 ) .

Fetch me a dozen Crab- tree staves, and strong ones

Crabapples were valued as a culinary treat in the 16th century far more than they today and were eaten roasted with a glass of warm ale in England. The English also valued the strength of the wood and the beauty of the tree when in bloom.