When I found this week's heirloom apple (the Arkansas Black), I thought about being 10 years old and accompanying my mom on an antiquing trip in the country outside of Philadelphia. We visited Ms. Juster's house: an old colonial stone home with narrow creaky staircases and uneven wooden floors where everything, including her old bed, was for sale. There was a spring house built into a small stream bed in the grassy front yard. It had a dwarf-sized green door with peeling paint. I can still taste the cold and fresh ground water in the tin cup that she kept hanging on a string by the metal spout.
The word heirloom also brings back that antiqued vision of something slightly dusty, perhaps with a patina finish that, if the buyer were knowledgeable enough, could turn out to be a forgotten treasure. It was tough to understand how my mom knew what was worth paying for. To me, it was all just old. Plus antiquing trips were not considered cool by 10 year old boys. I worried somehow that antiquing would rub off on me and I would come back less tough. A kid would call me out on the playground: “Your mom smells,” and I feared that I would rattle back, “well your mom is an heirloom 17th century American china cabinet—and the hinges are rusted.” I could never live that down.
This week we have an heirloom apple in the crate and it is truly a forgotten treasure. The Arkansas Black is a dark-purplish apple and is thought to be a descendant of the Winesap, first harvested in the United States in the mid-to late-1800's.
These apples come from Lee Walker's farm in Sebastapol and they are one of a very few number of Arkansas Black apples in the Bay Area this year. Lee hand picks his apples. Sadly, their trees only yielded 25 cases. Thus we will only have them available this week. As an heirloom variety they will be oddly sized and shaped. They will have dents and pits. But they are something special and they reacquaint us with the days of unique apples. I would recommend keeping them in the refrigerator and eating crisp.