The Aroma of Fall October 15, 2007

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The first fall rains graced the Bay Area last week. I drove down highway 280 to a meeting in Palo Alto as tall and gray billowy clouds puffed over Skyline Blvd above San Mateo. Evergreen trees reached up into the gray day and pulled wisps of misty rain showers into the gullies and crannies that angle the trickling streams down into the thirsty Crystal Springs Reservoir. The glazed highway glistened as the sun tried to poke through the insular day. Waiting in traffic at the off ramp, I rolled down my window. The wet leaves and soil that reach out from under the hills of trees and bushes seemed awakened by the rain. As the high note of mulching Northern California earthy-sweetness filled my car I couldn't help but transport back to the farms we work with that grow great fruit. This week Chris Bierwagen has captured the smell and taste of fall in his wonderful Arkansas Black apples. The soil and trees and moisture at 2,400 feet in the Sierra Nevada foothills are magically absorbed into his fruit. Before tasting this apple, hold it close to your nose and breathe in. Can you smell the fallen leaves, the dusty orange afternoon sun, the light rain showers?
Arkansas Black Apple: The Arkansas Black Apple is thought to be a descendant of the Winesap. The Arkansas Black was said to be discovered in Benton County, Arkansas in 1870. Chris Bierwagen hand-picks his apples and his Arkansas Black crop is small. Being an heirloom variety, this apple can be oddly-sized and shaped. They have a flat top and tend to look like they grew lopsided. They also have a sugary, nearly "tacky" feel to them. This is natural and you can either eat it sticky or rinse it with water and dry with a napkin. Regardless of your technique, the taste is exquisite. This apple has a cherry-cinnamon sweetness to it that is like no other apple. I find that the ones with the darkest red skin will have the most cherry-like flavor to them. I recommend keeping them in the refrigerator and eating crisp.


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