Arkansas is known for a lot of crops – soybeans, rice, cotton – but in the 19th century it was also known for apples. Dozens of varietals were grown in orchards across the state, ranging from the Shannon Pippin to the Coffelt – and of course, the Arkansas Black.
In 1919, over five million bushels of apples were produced in our state. That number dwindled over the years to less than a quarter million bushels in the 1960s, for a number of reasons – especially diseases like fire blight. Our state flower is the apple blossom, and today you can find apples grown across the state.
One of those is the Arkansas Black (also known as the Arkansas Blackapple). In the autumn, you’ll find the deep red, almost plum-colored fruit harvested. It will be available for the next several months at farm stands and grocery stores.
The Arkansas Blackapple is generally very tart when first picked, hard and crunchy. It gets its name from its deep color. Once they’re picked, the apples tend to mellow with age, and they have a shelf life of more than six months. The flesh of a blackapple is typically yellow.
Over the past couple of years, many of our state’s chefs have rediscovered the crisp orbs. While Blackapples have been available regionally for some time, in 2011 the fruit was found scarce on market shelves thanks to the combination of a harsh growing year and questing chefs looking to incorporate the apples into fine Arkansas cuisine. I hear this year the crop is fine and have already found the apples in several local stores.
What do you do with a Blackapple? You eat it, of course. The firm texture makes for good pie-making, especially when sliced into 1/8 to ¼ inch thick slices. Check out this recipe for Arkansas Blackapple Pie.