How the Red Delicious Lost its Allure


It’s apple season!!! The orchards are full of crisp, beautiful apples, just waiting for you to sink your teeth into. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you may live in an area where you can go to the source for your apple-picking needs. But most of us still rely on the grocery store  for our produce, at least some of the time.

If you have ever had an organic apple straight from the tree, then you realize how different they are from certain name-brand apples like Red Delicious we see in the stores today. Those apples may look perfect but their waxy peel and bland grainy flesh are huge disappointments in the taste department.

In her new article for The Atlantic, “The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious,” Sarah Yager tracks our nation’s most iconic apple from its pristine origins back in the 1800s to the modified mess it has become today.

Although Red Delicious started out with humble (dare we say delicious) beginnings, it has become one of the most worked-over fruits in the history of our country, drained of soul and void of substance. As Yager puts it,

If you want to make an allegory of the Red Delicious, you might see in it the story of America: confident intrusion on inhabited soil, opportunity won in a contest of merit, success achieved through hard work, integrity pulverized in the machinery of industrial capitalism.”

Once on the top of the heap, the crimson beauty’s popularity has sunk so low (what with newcomers such as Fuji and Gala added to the mix) that it has been recommended that up to two-thirds of our nation’s Red Delicious Crop be exported in the coming year. In other words, people in this country will not eat what was once the apple of their eye.

This particular apple’s long fall from grace began as a yellow spotted fruit with big flavor that everyone loved from coast to coast. When a mutation on one side of a particular tree turned the apples an intriguing bright red, interest spiked and sales soared. By the 1940s Red Delicious was the most popular apple in the country.

But as genes for beauty were favored over those for taste, the skins grew tough and bitter around mushy, sugar-soaked flesh.”

Unfortunately, the apple market was controlled by only a few companies, which kept right on promoting the tasteless fruit. It wasn’t until the more recent introduction of apples grown abroad, that consumers realized that they had been duped, or perhaps more accurately, we had all been eating with our eyes rather than our taste buds.

As the Joni Mitchell song goes, “Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and bees.” And may we add, the taste and texture, too.  


Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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