Arkansas Black?

The above Arkansas Black apples were on display at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, Mass.  where I spoke at their Taste of Autumn celebration Columbus Day weekend.  The place is stunningly beautiful and well-appointed, with a collection of 119 pre-1900 apple varieties.  They were gracious hosts to us and we’ll always remember our visit.

It gave us some examples of how different apples react to different climates.  If you’re wondering why the above apples are named Arkansas Black, it isn’t because of the flyspeck and sooty black fungus that covers them.  Here’s an example of the same variety grown in a much warmer climate.

This is Arkansas Black as grown in the desert foothills near Lancaster the other side of the mountains from Los Angeles, where it can get 115 degrees plus in the summer.  I think the heat plus a much longer season colors them up like this, as they color the same down at my place in the hot valley of Riverside.  You’ll also notice the lack of fungus in the dry desert air, and foliar diseases don’t stand much of a chance here also (sunburned apples and bark is more of a problem). 

Since Arkansas Black originated in Arkansas (brilliant deduction Sherlock) it’s no surprise that it favors a hot climate, where the flavor also is improved (although I’ve never been very impressed with the flavor, despite it’s almost cult-like following here).  This apple is one of several that never seem to properly ripen in the northern reaches of our country.

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5 Responses

  1. I grow Arkansas Black here in upstate New York and they look very similar to the ones in your picture in California. They are a very late ripening apple and I am surprised that they were already picked in Mass. when you were there (mine are still on the tree now). I would speculate that they partly look like they do in that picture from the Botanical Gardens because they are not ripe yet. My experience here is that we do have a long enough season to allow them to fully ripen as long as you don’t pick them too early.

  2. I wondered about that Chris; when do you pick them?

    • I will probably be picking them in the next week or two. I will try and remember to send a picture when I harvest them, but they are usually dark purple all the way around.

  3. Yeah, that’s about the same time they’re picking them here; I wonder why those were so green? Usually by that time they’re at least an even pink.

  4. I just purchased one of these apple trees for my home orchard. I live in USDA zone 9 (32907 zip code) so I am taking a bit of a chance with this apple. I am hoping it bears fruit (no pun intended). Actually I have a number of apples planted in my home orchard. Among them Fuji, Anna, Dorsett Golden, Tropic Sweet, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Gala. I also have citrus planted in my home orchard but surprisingly they don’t seem to do as well as the apple trees. I think it is because the soil in my property has a fair amount of clay in it. The irony is that the apples seem to do better in this soil than my citrus trees even though I live in Florida a well know citrus producing state.

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