Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Oxford *

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.


  1. Superb late season cider and baking. A great Apple to eat even until now that won't disappoint. Bugs seem to leave it well alone also.

  2. Hawk, I bought this at Whole Foods. The Fresh Pond store brings in heirlooms form orchards in Vermont and New Hampshire, usually towards the end of the season.

    These are great apples--Cox's, Ananas Reinette, Hudson's--but oddly once they reach the shop floor they do not generally get the treatment they deserve. It's not uncommon to find several varieties jumbled all together unlabeled in a cardboard box.

    Still if you are looking for a buyer you might consider cultivating a relationship with that store.

  3. Adam,

    I have some pre-snowstorm black oxfords in storage for us to taste...I can't help but mention that they have some tasting notes of tree ripened macouns, which are one of your favorites. I have never had them picked so late before, and I think that coupled with proper storage should give you some insight into its true flavors.

  4. I had ordered some Black Oxford's to plant and the nursery was out and I ended up getting Blue Pearmain instead. Do you know which ones bears later and any of the other differences besides the taste?

    1. Carl, these are both pretty late apples. I think maybe Blue ripens a little before Black. Both very striking appearances, too.

      I can't really say much about how either is to grow, but I think that BP is an excellent choice, sort of a paragon of its kind (big old apples with delicate flavors, such as American Beauty). I hope you enjoy them.

    2. Thanks Adam. I have some old trees. Wealthy, yellow transparent, I think maybe roxbury Russet, and some other Russian types and maybe a Canadian Strawberry. Thanks for the reply way back then!

    3. Nice to hear from you! Good luck with the trees.

  5. This apple may also be found around Packard's Corner

  6. I'm pretty sure that I ate some Black Oxford's last year. I was visiting a farm for their Apple Day, and I may have grabbed a couple of windfalls from a tree. The darkest apples I've ever seen (darker than AK Black). The flesh was grainy and yellowish, with an intense flavor--honeyed but acidity to balance. They were SO good I literally saw stars.

  7. Hi Adam! Thank you for writing this blog - you've helped me ID quite a few of the apple trees around my area and develop a new appreciation for apples of all kinds. Right now, I'm eating one of the Black Oxfords that would otherwise have gone to waste (or wildlife) from a neighbor's yard. They are indeed small, but nonetheless mighty tasty. Cheers :)

  8. We have a bountiful harvest this year from our five year old black oxford planted at 7200 feet. Apples started falling from the tree around Oct 24. Making a pie tonight. So good fresh. I do not experience these as mild. Rather, bright with balanced tart and sweet. Firm with a snap to the bite. Crisp. Great sweetness with the complexity to make it very interesting.


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