Endangered Edibles (Part 6)

Welcome to the LionMan School of ReWilding’s blog. This blog post is called “Endangered Edibles (Part 6)”. In this blog series, I’m sharing stories about wild plants and how they’ve helped my dental health. Please read, share, and enjoy!

It was a fall day, with a cool breeze and glowing sun warming our woolen clothes. The smell of apple cider donuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon was in the air, and you could see other kids like us running through the alleys of apples. The Shawangunk mountains leered in the distance, their gagged crests jutting out into the horizon. I was leading a second and fifth-grade homeschool class to harvest apples; seeing them clinging and swinging between the trees brought back my childhood memories. As they passed apples from one to another, I imagined them as young, busy elves bringing in the fall harvest.

The apples were full of blemishes, holes, and black specks. However, we loved them! One student passed me a small green apple. It was as green as the young grasses that emerge in the spring. This was my fifth apple or so that I’d eaten. Feeling its graininess on my fingertips, I sunk my teeth in for a bite! What a perfect blast of sourness and sweetness that apple was! A smile, a tear, and a sense of content arose as I watched the worker elves filling their willow backpacks.

As I sat near the lite fireplace that night, I began to reflect. Thinking back, something my mentor, Arthur Haines, said came to mind. He once told me that domesticated fruits have a skin-to-flesh ratio that is very different from wild fruits. Curious about what he said, I ran to my library and grabbed a book that spoke about the domestication of plants in the Near East.

What I learned from this book was that the identical precious small apples from the orchard we visited earlier in the day were, in fact, some of the healthiest fruits I can eat. The blemishes they had spoken of were a richer nutrient profile because the apple wasn’t protected against stressors than the beautiful gala apple. By stressors, I mean insect pressure, fungal diseases, and possible droughts, all would have stressed the tree and the apple I’d eaten (and other wild plants).  

The next day, I ate an apple in the warming rays of a Fall day. A gush of clear sour juice exploded all down my mouth. As I chewed, I noticed something of significance. As I chewed, slices of skin became stuck in between my teeth. My mentor was right, I thought. It’s the skin! Apples are suitable for my teeth! That is, the wilder apples are.


  • Crab apples contain vitamin C, like blackberries, cranberries, and blueberries.
  • Another research team found that crab apples contain plant compounds that include caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and Catechin. Chlorogenic and caffeic acid are both considered antioxidants.
  • Apples contain quercetin, which can inhibit the formation of Streptococcus mutans.
  • Apples contain compounds that fight cavity-causing bacteria.


Globally, apples have been eaten for millennia by indigenous peoples on every continent. Here in North America, the North American Ethnobotanical Database has documented fantastic sources of ethnobotanical knowledge. The tribes listed here are only to give you a feeling of the commonality of this plant in ancestral diets.

This list does not attempt to exclude any past, present, and living people. They include the Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, Ojibwa, Alaska Native, Bella Coola, Chinook, Clallam, Cowichan, Panacea, Cowlitz, Giktksan, Halsla and Hanakslala, Hesquiat, Hoh, Kitasoo, Klallam, and the Kwakiutl.

Documented uses include foods, gastrointestinal aids, hemorrhoid remedies, oral aids, abortifacients, dermatological aids, eye medicine, gynecological aids, tuberculosis remedies, and more.

Conservation Status:

There are an estimated 30-35 species in the genus Malus. The organization GoBotany recognized five different species in New England. One species, Malus trilobtata, is considered by the IUCN as N.T. (Near Threatened) and only exists in 10 known locations (Bulgaria, Greece, Israel, Syrian Arab Republic, and Turkey). Another species, Malus sieversii, the supposed ancient ancestor of most modern apple varieties, is considered Vulnerable. It only exists in China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

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