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Costard apples are large and oblong with noticeable ridges or ribs running the length of the fruit. The green to yellow skin is waxy and smooth with heavy red streaking. The pale white to cream-colored flesh is firm, moist, and fragrant when sliced. There is also a central tough and fibrous core that is star-shaped when sliced in half with a few, light brown seeds. Costard apples are juicy and crunchy with sweet and tangy flavors.
Costard apples are available in the fall.
Costard apples are considered the second-oldest known English apple (Malus domestica). The exact fruit that matches the name Costard is often confused, and hard to trace through several centuries of history. They are sometimes mistaken for the Catshead apple, and some claim that most apples that are today labeled Costards are actually Catsheads. Custard apples are an entirely different fruit, unrelated to Malus domestica.
One medium apple contains about 17% of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, important for healthy digestion, and 15% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C, crucial for a healthy immune system and skin. Apples do not have any fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and few calories.
Costard apples are a dessert variety, eaten fresh out of hand, and can also be used as a cooking apple.
The name “Costard” likely comes from the Latin word “costa,” which means rib. Costard apples have prominent ribbing, leading to its name. The modern British word “costermonger,” or a person who sells produce from a street cart, comes from the name of the apple.
The first mention of Costard apples in history was in 1292, in English King Edward the First’s official records. Costards are thought to be originally English, but they may have come first from France and were later introduced to England after the Norman Conquest. They have been grown ever since; by the 19th century they were grown especially in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in England. Since then, they have declined in popularity.