The Arkansas Black Apple is the Rare Fruit Every Southerner Must Try
The tasty apple has notes of cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, and coriander.
Arkansas is home to many interesting bragging rights. A state park filled with diamonds, for one. The wild Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, a cavernous home in the Ozark Mountains, for another. And how about those uber rare Arkansas Black apples?
What's that, you say? This under-the radar fruit dates back to the 1800s — and has a fascinating backstory.
"Growers first discovered and cultivated this breed in 1870, at an orchard in the county seat of Bentonville. Arkansas established an economy around apple production, and during the 1920s, 15 to 20 percent of the state's yield was its namesake black variety, thought to be a descendant of the Winesap apple," explains an entry on the Arkansas Black apple on Atlas Obscura. "But moth infestations that necessitated costly management and the onset of the Great Depression were a fatal blow to commercial production." What would become of the black apple's fate?
As a result of these moth infestations, the article claims, the apple faded from the mainstream, but it remained a staple in home cooking. Currently, the Arkansas Black apple makes up around 3-to-5 percent of Arkansas' total apple production.
Despite the name, some of these apples look reddish. As it turns out, the color of Arkansas Black apples change they grow, often reaching a very dark red or burgundy as they ripen. The exact shade of the apple runs the spectrum, but they're all called Arkansas Black apples
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The fruit is sold around Northwest Arkansas from the end of November through February. When it comes to eating these apples, it's best not to snack on them straight off the tree, and they do best when stored in refrigeration for a season. "Patient pickers are rewarded with a sweet, firm fruit that offers notes of cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, and coriander, but only after having aged it in cold storage for a few months," as Atlas Obscura reports. In addition to noshing on them raw, Arkansas Black apples work well in baked goods, like pie fillings.
Cherry, cinnamon, vanilla, coriander, and a little bit of Arkansas' Ozark mountains magic? We'll take an extra bushel.