An apple today 

Fall is upon us, and it is time to think of apples.

In 1919 Arkansas raised five and a half million bushels of apples; now that figure stands at about 67,000 bushels. One way to reverse this decline is to have an official state apple, and one particular apple at that, the Arkansas Black.

The state that ranks eighth in obesity needs a state apple far more than it needs a state fish or a state bacon. Properly done this action could set in motion a brighter future for orchardists, retailers, restaurants, consumers, tourists, agri-tourism, and state pride. Urgency is required. Today China raises 1.4 billion bushels of apples, seven times that of the United States and one-half of the world's supply. While Chinese apples are rated as too toxic to enter America, their apple juice appears in virtually every supermarket brand. American orchardists worry that China apples will drive them out of business, a fate that has already overtaken American garlic producers. Growing and eating our own apples is one response to the Chinese threat to take over America.

Apples are not native to the Americas but formed a major component in what is called the Colombian Exchange — America's plants to Europe, and European plants to the Americas. In 1634 Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, ordered apples, especially “Pipins, Pearmans and Deesons.” George Washington ordered trees from England but by 1800 local nurseries began to fill the void.

In early 20th century Arkansas some 75 percent of the apples in Washington and Benton counties were the Ben Davis or its near cousins. (The popular but tasteless Ben Davis inspired jokes. In one story, a blindfolded expert identified correctly every apple he was given. Finally, his challenger supplied a piece of cork. The export thought it must be a Ben Davis, but if it was, “it's the best tasting Ben Davis I've ever eaten.”)

A large number of apples carried the name “Horse,” indicating that other animals shared an interest in the fruit. “I find more old trees of the Horse than any other variety,” Southern apple historian Creighton Lee Calhoun Jr. observed.

Most eating apples have to mature after being picked before reaching full flavor. In an age before refrigerators, apples were preserved for the winter in several ways: by drying (home evaporators were universal), making them into cider, vinegar, and apple butter, or storing them in root cellars for future use. The Arkansas black was a good keeper that could hold its flavor for months. 

In the 19th century apple cross-pollination and genetic mutation resulted in a Darwinian host of varieties. In his 1995 book “Old Southern Apples,” historian Calhoun describes about 1,600 varieties that were grown or originated in the South. Arkansas's 50 varieties included 12 that carried the name “Arkansas,” the most unusual being one named Arkansas Baptist.

John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed,” 1774-1845), who established nurseries in the Midwest, apparently never visited Arkansas.

In Arkansas the first recorded nursery was in 1827 and the first man to describe himself in the census as a nurseryman was Jacob M.J. Smith, who in 1836 located north of Fayetteville. The first large orchard in Benton County was reportedly set out by a Cherokee woman in 1840.

The Shannon Pippin appeared on Granville D. Shannon's orchard near Boonsboro in Washington County between 1833 and 1843. One Shannon exhibited in Fayetteville in 1869 weighed 27 ounces, and the apple won more premiums at the New Orleans Exposition in 1884 than any other Southern apple.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • LR Central student scores perfect on ACT

    The Little Rock School District announced yesterday that Karina Bao, a senior at Little Rock Central High School, had scored a perfect 36 composite score on the four-part ACT test, an achievement by less than a tenth of one percent of the 2.1 million who took the test.
  • Little Rock police kill man downtown

    Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
  • From the mind of Sol LeWitt: Crystal Bridges 'Loopy Doopy': A correction

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
  • Ted Suhl loses another bid for new trial; faces stiff sentencing recommendation

    Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
  • Football and foster kids

    It took a football stadium to lay bare Republican budget hypocrisy in Arkansas.

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

Jodi Morris's lifelong ties to the National Park Service

"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation