Sunday, January 30

Story of an Apple: Arkansas Black

Arkansas Black is an heirloom apple that originated in Benton county, Arkansas.  Quite possibly raised in the orchard of Mr. Brathwaite, the first fruit was harvested around the year 1870.  In some cases Arkansas Black has erroneously been listed as identical to the variety simply known as Arkansas, due to the similarity in name and origin, when in fact the trees and fruit bear little resemblance  to each other.  Unlike the Arkansas, which is commonly accepted to be a seedling of Winesap, the parentage of Arkansas black is less certain although it is suggested that the Arkansas Black also has Winesap among it's ancestors.  The name for the variety comes from the fruits deep red hue, which when ripe can appear almost black.
Arkansas Black, Cornell Orchards, taken beginning of September.  Color becomes significantly darker prior to harvest in late October.
 S.A. Beach in The Apples of New York describes the Arkansas Black as "one of the most beautiful apples."  He goes on to say, "It is a good keeper and commands a good price in market."  The variety was a popular cultivar in parts of Arkansas and Missouri during the last part of the 19th century.  During this period it is believed that Arkansas Black may have comprised up 10 to 15 percent of the apples grown in the state of Arkansas.  In the first decades of the 20th century, Codling Moth infestations, drought and the economic decline of the Depression all took their toll on the Arkansas apple industry, which never recovered.  Since then Arkansas Black has been grown in many regions of the united states, mostly in small quantities as an antique variety, used primarily for cooking and cider. More recently it has begun to make it's way into the commercial market.  The other day I found it at my local food cooperative, the first time I have seen it for sale outside of an orchard or the farmer's market. 
In the orchard the variety has shown some resistance to Apple Scab and Fireblight, as well as a strong resistance to Cedar Apple Rust.  It is a good bearer, although a poor pollinator.  It is harvested here in New York in late October or early November and will keep for many months in storage.  

Wednesday, January 5

Warmer Days Ahead

The winter season is often a time to hunker down, do some good reading and thoughtful contemplation.  Reflect on the year gone by and plan for the coming seasons.  It is also a time to take a trip to warmer climates, for some of us lucky enough to find the time and means to to travel.  For the next few weeks I will be taking a hiatus from the blog and from the blustery weather of central New York, to travel again to Mexico and Guatemala.  To be honest, this hiatus may go largely unnoticed, being as I have not been as active in posting on my blog as I had imagined I would be in the slower winter months.  My apologies.
New York Winter
In other news, I have been giving a lot of thought to the coming spring even if the days are still short and there are still apples in the cellar.  I have been scheming with a few friends and planning a small orchard of sorts to be planted this coming spring on some land just outside of Ithaca.  With the wheels in motion, I have ordered a small number of dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstocks on which I hope to graft my first apple trees.  The whole process from the graft point up will be a huge learning experience.  Much of it is still in the planning and researching stages, but I am still excited to think ahead to sloppy March thaws and May blossoms.