Apple of the Week – Red Delicious Apples

September 24, 2015 at 4:47 AM | Posted in Apple of the Week | 1 Comment
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A pile of 'Red Delicious'

A pile of ‘Red Delicious’

The Red Delicious is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars, recognized in Madison County, Iowa, United States, in 1880. As new cultivars with improved color and earlier harvestability have replaced the original cultivar in commercial orchards, the taste and texture of the harvested commodity have deteriorated, and many customers have begun to reject the ‘Red Delicious’ as being a markedly inferior tasting variety at the food market. Roger Yepsen notes some of its less desirable qualities, “The skin is thick and bitter and has to be chewed vigorously… this apple ranks close to the bottom when cooked… sold year round, so shop with skepticism. Delicious retains its cheerful good looks long after its flavor has departed.” According to the US Apple Association website it is one of the fifteen most popular apple cultivars in the United States. They’re harvested in September and October and available throughout the year.

 

 

The ‘Red Delicious’ originated at an orchard in 1880 as “a round, blushed yellow fruit of surpassing sweetness”. Stark Nurseries held a competition in 1892 to find an apple to replace the ‘Ben Davis’ apple. The winner was a red and yellow striped apple sent by Jesse Hiatt, a farmer in Peru, Iowa, who called it “Hawkeye”. Stark Nurseries bought the rights from Hiatt, renamed the variety “Stark Delicious”, and began propagating it. Another apple tree, later named the ‘Golden Delicious’, was also marketed by Stark Nurseries after it was purchased from a farmer in Clay County, West Virginia, in 1914; the ‘Delicious’ became the ‘Red Delicious’ as a retronym.

 

 

In the 1980s, ‘Red Delicious’ represented three-quarters of the harvest in Washington state. A decade later, reliance on ‘Red Delicious’ had helped to push Washington state’s apple industry “to the edge” of collapse. In 2000, Congress approved and President Bill Clinton signed a bill to bail out the apple industry, after apple growers had lost $760 million since 1997. By 2000, this cultivar made up less than one half of the Washington state output, and in 2003, the crop had shrunk to 37 percent of the state’s harvest, which totaled 103 million boxes. Although Red Delicious still remained the single largest variety produced in the state in 2005, others were growing in popularity, notably the ‘Fuji’ and ‘Gala’ varieties.

 

 

Red Delicious apples offer a small amount of vitamin A and vitamin C and have only a trace of sodium. They contain pectin, a beneficial fiber that has been shown to help promote healthy cholesterol levels and slow glucose metabolism in diabetics. Red Delicious apples are also higher in antioxidants than many other apple varieties, most of which is contained in their skin.

 

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