Not the shoe and not the fabric, today's fruit is named for its unusual deep color and a county in western Maine.
It is small and quite dark, spattered with rust-colored lenticels like some polished victorian curio of exotic hardwood or stone.
The blush is a deep red with purple overtones, almost mahogany, sometimes described as having a blackish bloom. The apple is slightly ribbed and classically shaped, round to conical. Its unbroken peel has a faint grassy smell.
The flesh of Black Oxford is dense and light yellow, and though my samples are firm they are a bit yielding to the tooth. Flavors are mild and sweet, reminding me a little of the excellent Westfield Seek-No-Further. There are notes of sweet corn, a hint of vanilla, and the pure sweetness of cane sugar.
This is followed by a prominent grassy aftertaste from the peel, which is chewy. Indeed, flesh and peel form two distinct experiences, and since the peel comes last it dominates the final impression perhaps a little too much.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardners Association (among others) locates the origins of this apple in Paris, Maine (Oxford County) about 1790.
By 1858 the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Maine Board of Agriculture suggests that Black Oxford was well known (and prized). Its parents are unknown.
Update: I got some more of these in 2011 (see photo).
Not really enough new to merit a completely revamped description. However, if I've whet your appetite for Black Oxford here's what I found.