Apples don’t usually appear alongside words like luxurious and exotic. The black diamond apple is an exception. It’s rarely sold at American grocery stores—or even specialty farmers’ markets, for that matter—and when it is it can cost upwards of $7. So what is it about the dark and mysterious fruit that justifies the premium price tag?
According to Simplemost, the high cost of the crop comes down to its strict growing requirements. Black diamond apples (which are really dark purple, not black) are an uncommon variety of Huaniu apples, or Chinese Red Delicious, that are native to the remote mountain community of Nyingchi in Tibet. After absorbing the sun’s rays at high altitudes during the day, they endure chilly temperatures at night, and this rapidly fluctuating climate cycle is what gives them their signature coloring. Though they’re built for such dramatic changes within a 24-hour period, they can’t withstand temperatures above 80°F or below 30°F for very long.
These unique conditions make it difficult to grow them anywhere in the U.S. Even Himalayan farmers struggle to cultivate black diamond apples. It takes 8 years until they’re ready to harvest, and they’re only in season two months out of the year. Some people claim they’re worth the wait; black diamond apples have a high glucose concentration, making them sweeter than some common varieties. That combined with their stunning, elegant look makes the $7 price easier to swallow.
If you want to try the exclusive apple variety for yourself, your best bet is to shop in premium supermarkets in Asia. And though it’s not as rare or expensive, the Honeycrisp is a more accessible alternative for consumers who want their apples to have an air of luxury.