Arkansas Black Apple Tart, made with local apples from Sunshine Valley Farm.
I was hooked on the Arkansas Black variety the first moment I bit into one. They are harder than most apples you’d typically eat plain, outside of a pie or dumpling, but the flavor is the most unique and complex of any variety I’ve ever tried, as if the cinnamon and clove spices from an apple pie are laced into the flesh, straight from the tree. Their skin is a deep burgandy with patches of yellow and gold and orange, all the colors of autumn.
The folks at Sunshine Valley Farm have told me this variety has a cult following among a few of their customers, and that’s always surprised me. Maybe it’s from a lack of exposure—it’s not a variety you typically see in a grocery store; instead, they are found at farmers markets and roadside fruit stands around the Ozarks.
Every fall, I eagerly await their picking, and they’re always one of the last to ripen. I’d never baked anything with them, but I’ve expected a tart or pie would be remarkable. I found a simple recipe that withheld the typical spices and seasonings in order to rely on the incredible inherent flavor. I made this tart yesterday, and as you might guess, there is not much left of it today.
There is much made about eating local—choosing foods that are grown close to home, which I believe is very important. But there’s another aspect to eating local that I think is worth pursuing, and that is finding the varieties of fuits and vegetables that have been adapted to grow in that local area—native varieties. Those native varieties are what your region tastes like and has tasted like for decades, if not centuries. Here in the Ozarks, the Arkansas Black apple is something to both savor and cherish.