The sign has been passed year after year on Highway 65... the sign that reads "Arkansas Black Apples."
For many years, I didn't give it much thought. Of course, those were childhood years and not those of later times. These past cycles of fall to winter to spring, I've passed the sign and started wondering... just what are Arkansas Black Apples? And why am I only seeing them here?
On a lazy March morning with traveling companion in tow, I stopped at this roadside space near Leslie. There was much evidence of the recent ice storm -- with trees split around and piles of sawdust here and there where felled timber had crossed the road. But the day was perfect, sunny, and in the sixties.
The little nondescript building was quiet when we drove up. A gentleman was out in the yard of the place, but he came up to greet me when I stepped out of the van. We walked inside and I had a look around.
Yes, there were baskets of Arkansas Black Apples here -- dark maroon-colored fruit that shone darkly in their baskets. There were also Galas, Fujis, Granny Smiths, and more. I asked about the apples, and was told they came from Alabama.
Well, most of the apples. The Arkansas Blacks were grown nearby, just outside of Leslie. Without further ado, I ordered up a basket to take home. Baskets, by the way, are $7 for any type of apple.
The little shop also had Amish-style jams (from London, TN) and locally dug quartz crystals.
When I got home, I checked out more about Arkansas Black Apples. Turns out, they were once incredibly popular here, a native-grown species that's a variety of the Winesap. It's harvested in the winter months. You can learn a lot more about it here.
The apples had fragranced-up the van, and I couldn't wait to try onr. I discovered it's a sweet, starchy fruit, untart, with a hint of a red wine taste. As a former colleague of mine would have said, "mighty fne, mighty fine."
You'll fine the stand about a mile south of Leslie on US 65.