Ark of Taste
Arkansas Black Apple
Malus domestica v. Arkansas Black
This small sized apple can vary from a dark vivid red to an almost deep purple skin color. When cut open the flesh is usually a bright golden hued or white to cream with a crisp texture, and is very dense. When first harvested, the Arkansas Black Apple is as hard as a rock, but continues to ripen after being picked, and can be refrigerated for up to two to four months. This naturally long shelf life is a great advantage, and is one of the reasons why chefs enjoy cooking with Arkansas Blacks. Other reasons include its highly aromatic and sweet-tart flavor that actually becomes more appealing to the taste with storage. It is tart and sweet, and has a hint of pear-like aroma. These qualities make it great for baking, sautéing, and roasting, as well as a perfect ingredient for pies, bread-pudding, stuffing, cider, and apple butter.
The Arkansas Black Apple was discovered by an orchard owner in Benton County, Arkansas around the 1870s. However, some reports claim the fruit may date back as far as the 1840s. The parentage of the Arkansas Black Apple is unclear, but it is thought to be a seedling of the winesap. By the end of the 1800s popularity had grown so much that Arkansas Black Apple production accounted for up to fifteen percent of the state’s apple production. In the 1930s a combination of drought, insects, and the crash of the stock market caused the decline in production to the point where it has yet to recover from the damages. Despite lower production, the Arkansas Black Apple continues to be used by chefs around the country because of its unique taste that has the ability to add a little something extra to a specialty dish.
One of the unique qualities of the Arkansas Black Apple is that it is very disease resistant, and tolerant to heat and humidity. Therefore, little caretaking is needed when growing the trees, and they can be grown without the use of harmful pest resistant sprays, which is beneficial to the environment. Another beneficial quality of the Arkansas Black is that the trees are self-fertile, this means they can self-pollinate. This is an extremely valuable advantage over other apple trees, especially with the continuously changing environment, the Arkansas Black doesn’t need to rely on outside factors such as wind or bees in order to produce fruit. In the volatile environment of our world, this is an extremely valuable trait to possess, making Arkansas Black Apples a very environmentally resistant variety.
Unfortunately, public knowledge of the fruit remains virtually non-existent, because they are rarely sold in stores and must be specially ordered. As the demand for Arkansas Blacks continues to dwindle so will the supply, threatening the existence of this historic, and fascinating, variety.