Monday, January 19, 2009

Arkansas Black *

Arkansas Black is a Southern apple and I am fortunate to have found some growing right here in Massachusetts.

These run on the small side of medium and have a dull blush that runs to deep purplish red on the sunward side, with small light lenticels. The unblushed skin is yellow, and there is a little crown of russet around the stem well.

The apple is very firm and, for its size, heavy, with only a very faint apple aroma.

The flesh is fine-grained, yellow, very crisp, and dense. Arkansas Black might cut the redoubtable Blue Pearmain, not that I have one to compare. The fruit is reasonably juicy but has so much matter that the juice gives out before the apple, leaving a dry impression. It oxidizes quickly when cut. And, it's really filling.

The Black's flavors are sweet, tart, and acid. The highlights are unusual and challenging: hint of pear and something like tobacco. The finish is nicely astringent.

I can't imagine this distinctive variety being hugely popular today, but I am enjoying mine. I have been curious about this variety ever since a friend from Atlanta described one to me four years ago.

Arkansas Black is said to be a phenomenally good keeper. The apples I purchased may have been picked as much as a month earlier. I plan to hold a few back to see how they mature in storage.

Black has its own entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, including its history and other lore.

Note: This is the last of my hoarded apple reviews, though at this writing the Arkansas Blacks that I have are still good. I still have a few more things to show and to tell, too.

Update: These held up magnificently! I ate my last Arkansas Black on May 4.

5 comments:

  1. I read your post about Arkansas Black apples several days ago and had intended to comment before now. I had wondered what you would think of the Arkansas Black apples you had. I think your description is a good one. One of the last two Arkansas Blacks I had toward the end of fall last year was much as you've described here, the other, which was the last one I ate, may have been a little on the green side, or at least not quite ripe, because that astringent quality you mention was so pronounced that it gave that particular apple an almost bitter quality. A pity for the last of those for the season. In general it is a good apple, hearty and with a good "tooth". I don't know that that is how one refers to an apple's hardness. I think you use another term. I guess I was thinking of pasta when it is al dente, and thinking of the firmness of an apple as one snaps off a bite. Anyway, I was glad to see that you'd reviewed this apple, had actually looked for it among your postings and it noted it wasn't there. So thank you!

    Nina

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  2. Hearty, good tooth. Those are very good words for this apple.

    Also, dense, doughty, stick-to-your-ribs, and heavy. Not words I normally think of in relation to apples, but it works.

    The amount of variation in this fruit, malus domestica, is astonishing. At a blind tasting, where you removed physical resemblance by peeling and cubing the fruit, I'll bet most people would not guess that both Arkansas Black and Golden Russet belonged to the same species.

    Thanks, Nina!

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  3. I tried my first one of these today. I bought a handful at our farmer's market about a month ago. The apple was deep red, almost purple with some russeting around the top. It was really nice to look at. The apple is as firm as a baseball. I finally cut it into slices after a few attempts to bite off a piece. I ate it as dessert just after a bowl of pasta and it was just as heavy as the pasta was. A very dense flesh with good juiciness, more than the Golden Russet I just ate but more dense than the russet also. The flavor was sweet/astringent and kept me coming back for more as I tried to pin down the flavor. I wasn't able to do so. Over all it tasted earthy, grassy, sweet, starchy and tart. A unique apple for sure. I can see why it doesn't have a lot of disease and insect problems with how dense it is. Take a few along on your next picnic and eat one and play baseball with the other. This apple was grown in S.E. Wisconsin. I would be intersted to try one that comes from a hotter Southern state.

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  4. This one really defies expectations of what an apple is like. I won't say it's indescribable, but you really have to try one to know one.

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  5. About 12 years ago we found this apple here in Sonoma County, CA at a farmers market. We were intrigued by the almost black color and the heavy streaking of red in the flesh of the samples.

    Crisp, both in the bite and the flavor. We ate some plain, some with cheese, and then sliced and sauted some in a little butter with a touch of sugar and "pie spices."

    The next week we went back and bought a box of them. That was, if I recall, a week before Thanksgiving (worked well in a pie). We just stored the box in the garage, dipping into it a little every week. By March we had maybe half a dozen left, some were showing some wrinkles. We only threw out 2 for spoilage.

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