Head to your local supermarket and you’ll likely see a huge variety of apples in the produce aisle. From Granny Smiths to Golden Delicious, apples come in just about every color you can imagine. However, we’re willing to bet you’ve never seen a black apple before (at least one that’s still fresh!). These black apples are the newest craze on the produce scene, and at $7 a piece, you’d think that farmers would be raking in the dough. However, most of them don’t want to grow them. Here’s why.
A Diet Staple
Apples aren’t exactly considered to be an exotic food, by any means. Most of us will likely have no problem recalling the last time we ate an apple. They’re available in just about every supermarket in the world. You can even find them for sale in gas stations when you need an afternoon snack!
Apples are a great snack, as is, but you can also incorporate them into any number of dishes from pies to pork chops. However, most of us have only ever eaten (or seen) some variety of red or green apples. Most of us have never seen a black apple, and we certainly haven’t forked over 7 bucks just to eat one!
Apples Throughout History
As it turns out, apples have played an important role throughout history. In fact, apples have been around and documented in historical records for several thousand years. It’s well known that apples had a spot at every feast throughout ancient Greece and Rome.
Historians have actually managed to trace the origin of the fruit back to at least 6,500 B.C. It’s also showed up in historical texts and fiction throughout history, from Henry VII to Robin Hood, and even the bible (Adam and Eve, anyone?), apples have cemented themselves in the history books.
Plenty Of Variety
As we’ve mentioned, you’ll have no problem finding a wide range of apples in just about every store in the world. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. While you might be impressed with the number of choices in your local supermarket, keep in mind that there are 7,500 varieties of apples grown across the globe!
The biggest part of those apples that are grown commercially come out of the United States, China, Poland, Turkey, and Italy. Some of the more unusual varieties come from different places, and they’ve grown both naturally and by artificial means.
When people think of apples, most of us probably first think of a color, usually red or green, and then think of the shape. Apples are either round or heart-shaped, with no exceptions, right? Wrong! One company in China has managed to cultivate square apples!
They’re grown in the normal way, but once the fruit initially starts to grow, the company places a square mold around the fruit so that it grows into the preferred shape. The result is not only a really unique snack, but the square shape makes it much easier to store and transport the apples.
Red, Through And Through
Some prefer green over red apples, but many prefer a bright red, crisp, delicious apple. After taking a bite, we’re rewarded with a bright white center that contrasts perfectly with the outer skin. One farmer in Switzerland decided to put a unique spin on the apple.
He did this by cross pollinating a couple of different plants. The result is a one-of-a-kind apple that is bright red not only on the outside but also the inside. The farmer has marketed his creation as the “Redlove” apple and now he sells them all across the globe.
The Black Apple
The subject of this article is mysteriously known as “The Black Diamond.” It’s an interesting name. It obviously refers to the unique color of the apple. However, the “diamond” portion of the name is referencing how hard it is to get your hands on one.
Like real diamonds, you can expect to pay a premium if you actually manage to track one of these unique fruits down. Right now, the going rate is about $7. The bad news is that the price is probably going to continue to climb. That’s because many farmers have stopped growing them.
The Hua Nia
The Black Diamond is definitely a unique fruit, but it’s not exactly its own species. Technically, the black apples are a variety of the Hua Nia Apple. That roughly translates to “Chinese Red Delicious.” The normal Hua Nia isn’t all that hard to find.
You can even find them outside of China (they can be found pretty regularly in the U.S.). However, the black variety is extremely rare. They’re only grown in one particular part of the world, and it’s not easy to get to. That isolated area is within the mountains of Tibet.
A High Altitude Fruit
The mountains of Tibet are the highest peaks in the world. Home to Mount Everest, K2, and dozens of other, it’s not a likely place for growing fruit. However, the Black Diamond apple dots the valleys in this area at over 10,000 feet above sea level.
If you’re ever lucky enough to visit this region, you’ll find apple trees that look pretty similar to every other apple tree in the world. The difference is that the fruit is a dark purple color that can appear completely black in the right light. In addition, the skin on these unique apples is thicker than any other species throughout the world and very waxy, resulting in a shiny fruit that has no equal.
One Of A Kind Location
The company that currently grows the apples for commercial distribution says that the unique color is 100% because of the one-of-a-kind location in which they are grown. The process starts during the daylight hours, when temperatures climb and the sun shines, aiding the seedlings in growing and thriving.
In that regard, they’re not that different than any other apple in the world. At night, however, the temperatures plummet, often below freezing. That means that the apples have adapted considerably. The black skin is a result of the extreme temperature changes and variations in UV exposure.
Does It Taste Different?
With an apple that looks so drastically different than its cousins, you have to wonder whether it tastes different, too. The answer, according to many who have tried the fruit, is that yes, it does taste different than the red or green varieties.
First off, most will tell you that the Black Diamond apple is much crispier than other varieties. That’s due to its much thicker skin. Those who have sampled the unique fruit will also tell you that it tastes much sweeter than other apples.
Not All Things Are Created Equal
While the Black Diamond apples may have many similarities to many other varieties, we’ve already shown how they are also much different. Another quality that makes them different than most other varieties is the length of time it takes to actually grow them.
Most other varieties mature in about 2 to 3 years. However, the Black Diamond can take up to 8 years to fully mature. The harsh temperatures are to blame for the longer cultivation time. Plus, the company that distributes the apples has some really strict quality control guidelines.
As you can see, growing these unique apples takes a lot of dedicated work, and with only 30% being distributed, it should not come as a surprise that you’re going to have to pay a premium to get your hands on the fruit.
Your best for finding a Black Diamond apple is to head to one of the high-end markets in Chinese cities like Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, or Shanghai. Most of these markets sell the apples as part of a basket deal that comes with 6 to 8 pieces of fruit. These baskets will run you around $42 or so for the full package.
Obviously, these fruits are pretty exclusive. You can’t exactly run down to just any backroad market and pick one up. The farmers simply can’t mass produce the Black Diamond like they can the other varieties. They’re only able to grow the apples in small batches and in the harshest of conditions.
That’s why they’re so expensive. Plus, we’ve already mentioned that only a small percentage of the crops actually pass quality control. That’s why you can expect to pay $7 a pop for one of these gems. For many, that’s simply too steep when you consider that a pound of “regular” apples in the U.S. runs about $2.
Just How Harsh Are Those Conditions, Anyway?
The production costs of the Black Diamond are tough enough on the farmers, but those “harsh” conditions we keep mentioning really take a toll on all involved too. Just how bad is it, though? The temperature fluctuation is one thing, but you also have to consider the terrain.
After all, the Tibetan mountains are some of the highest in the world. The terrain is so severe that many farmers find it difficult to even reach their crops on a daily basis. While the severe weather actually promotes the qualities, farmers often end up abandoning their apples due to the weather.
Hard To Come By
While many of us simply can’t justify the idea of spending $7 on a single apple, most of us couldn’t get our hands on a Black Diamond even if we were willing to fork over the dough. Even the farmers have a difficult time.
They still don’t have a solid grasp on how to market the fruit or who to distribute it to. That’s why they can really only be found in select markets in pretty specific parts of Asia. Even if they could distribute to a wider market, would it do any good?
A Passing Fad?
Many of you may be wondering by now whether the black apples from Tibet are just part of a passing fad. The truth is, they very well may be. After all, there are only a comparatively few of them distributed every year, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the niche is going to expand any time soon.
There’s always a small chance that some research could be conducted and they could be grown in artificial environments other places throughout the world. However, given the number of farmers who are abandoning their efforts to grow these unique apples, it would seem that production could come to a complete halt any day now.
The unique color and circumstances around their production certainly spark interest when it comes to the Black Diamond. For many people, just taking a bite of such a weird and unique fruit is reason enough to fork over $7. However, the fruit really isn’t selling as well as the distributors might have hoped.
For now, the Black Diamond is really the only staple among China’s highest society members. The only way that the sales will conceivably pick up is if the prices drop or they find a way to distribute to the masses in a way that makes good financial sense.
When In Tibet…
If you happen to be visiting Tibet sometime soon, do yourself a favor and fork over the 7 bucks to try a Black Diamond apple, if only to earn the bragging rights. However, there are plenty of other food-related reasons to visit the country.
One staple that you’ll find in almost every dish is yak. Most of the dishes in Tibetan cuisine that contain a protein are going to be made with yak meat. The deserts are really no exception. Tibetan yogurt is considered a delicacy, and it’s made with—you guessed it—yak milk.
The rarity of the Black Diamond apples makes them a mysterious fruit, but other fruit growers from around the world have cast even more mystery onto the apples. Details and data about the apples are pretty hard to come by.
Because of that, many Western apple farmers have expressed that they don’t even believe the fruit even exists. Others have accepted that the black apples do exist, but they think that the photos that have surfaced have been doctored to make the fruit look darker than they actually are.
Would They Do Well?
Tragically, the odds of the Black Diamond apples making it into your local supermarket probably aren’t that great. But even if they did, would you actually eat one? You may be hooked at this point and answer with a resounding “yes!”
However, science has proven that this might not be the case. It’s been said that we first eat a meal with our eyes, and there is a bit of reality behind that. We associate color with certain foods, and if that combination is fiddled with, there’s a good chance we won’t try something new.
Food For Thought
Piggybacking on the above the idea, imagine being offered a glass of dull, brown tomato juice. Would you drink it? Most of us probably wouldn’t because we associate tomato juice with a bright, vibrant liquid. However, science proves that as tomatoes ripen, they grow darker.
Therefore, natural tomato juice is actually browner than the bright red we usually imagine. Our minds naturally think something is “bad” or “wrong” when it’s not the color that we’ve come to expect. This is especially true with foods that are brown or black in color.
If you’re really that determined to try a black apple, the good news is that you don’t have to fly to China to do it. In fact, farmers in Arkansas have been growing a dark variety of the fruit for more than 100 years now. While they’re still on the tree, the apples are a very dark red.
These apples represent some of the darkest you can get which are still “widely” available. You don’t even have to travel to Arkansas to try them. You can grow them yourself, and you don’t have to go through nearly the amount of frustrations as the Chinese farmers do!
An Apple That’s Not An Apple
You may have actually heard of the “black apple” before. Pouteria Australis is the scientific name given to a species of plum that grows in Australia. It’s more commonly referred to as the “black apple” or “black plum.” The tree grows pretty commonly in New South Wales.
In this case, the “black apple” isn’t an apple at all, although they do slightly resemble their cousins. Either way, these plums are supposed to be delicious, so if you come across one don’t pass the opportunity to try it. There’s a good chance you’ll pay a lot less than $7 a piece for them, too!
More Expensive Fruits
While many of us might cringe at the idea of paying $7 for a single apple, it’s not even close to the most ridiculously priced fruit. Japan is home to the Densuke watermelon. Like the Black Diamond apple, this fruit also comes with an all-black rind.
Only 10,000 of these watermelons are harvested each year, and if you want one, you’ll need to fork over a staggering $6,000! If that’s a bit too rich for you, you can always try one of China’s square watermelons, which will only set you back a measly $800.
The Titan Of Expensive Fruits
Believe it or not, that $10,000 watermelon isn’t the most outrageously priced fruit in the world. That title also belongs to another Japanese native. Recently, two Yobari King melons were auctioned off for $27,600—roughly the price of a new car!
What’s more, there really isn’t anything that sets these melons apart from regular melons. The crazy rich people who have actually tasted them claim they’re sweeter than regular melons, but that’s hardly worth forking over nearly $14k a pop!
More Strange Fruits
The Tibetan mountains are certainly a strange place to grow fruit, but they’re not the only oddball location. Most people consider a pineapple to be a strictly tropical fruit. They’re normally grown commercially in places like Hawaii or Florida. Believe it or not, they’re also grown in England!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall is home to an area where pineapples have widely been grown since the 19th century. One thing that is certain—the weather in southwestern England is NOT tropical! Still, it’s just more proof that with enough determination, you can grow tasty fruit just about anywhere in the world.
Not For Sale
Don’t get your hopes by thinking you’ll be able to buy one of the rare Cornwall pineapples. While they’ve been cultivated since the Victorian era, they’re not for sale. They were originally grown for rich folks who had no way of getting them before the days of air cargo and commercial shipping.
A fun bit of trivia is the fact that the second pineapple ever grown here was given to Queen Elizabeth as a gift. While they’re not for sale, it’s estimated that one of these rare pineapples would bring in around $13,000 at an auction if it were put up for sale!