Red Delicious apples are an iconic variety. They’re the classic American red apples. Some people condemn the fruit as bland, but the history of this apple is interesting enough to make up for the lack of taste.
Here you’ll learn all about Red Delicious apples, from the best recipes to their fascinating origin.
History of Red Delicious
However, Red Delicious apples are still the most iconic red apple variety you’ll encounter. If you think of a red apple, this variety is likely what comes to mind. Red Delicious has been one of the most popular apples produced in the United States.
While they’ve had their ups and downs, Red Delicious is still one of the top five most popular apples in the world. So where did this well-known variety come from? Surprisingly, they were introduced to the market as part of a fruit show contest.
Jesse Hiatt was a Quaker farmer who lived in a log cabin with his family of 12 in the late nineteenth century. He and his family planted an orchard on their farm, and eventually a chance seedling grew between the rows. Jesse Hiatt tried to chop down the seedling three years in a row. The tree kept growing back, so he gave up and let the tree grow.
Ten years later, the apple bore fruit. The bright red and yellow fruits were sweet and crisp, and Jesse Hiatt and his family were delighted with the fruit. They brought the apples to fairs and fruit shows for years. Eventually, the Stark Brothers Nursery recognized the apple’s potential and bought the variety in the 1890s, naming it Red Delicious.
For years, the Red Delicious variety thrived as one of the most popular types of apple in the United States. It was a favorite for snacking because of its pleasant flavor and texture. In addition, Red Delicious trees are easy to grow and produce many apples.
What do Red Delicious Apples Taste Like?
Red Delicious is the center of a flavor debate. People don’t agree on whether the apple is truly “delicious” or if it’s mildness is actually bland.
Red Delicious apples are juicy and slightly crisp, with a hint of acidity and notes that remind of melon. Beyond that, there’s not much flavor complexity to your average grocery store Red Delicious. The apple is refreshing chilled but won’t win any awards for incredible flavor. They have thick skin, so they resist bruising and store well. Of course, ripe Red Delicious apples fresh off the tree will always taste the most crisp and flavorful.
There’s speculation that pressure on growers to breed perfectly shaped, bright red fruit has caused the flavor to decline over time. Furthermore, grocery stores wax Red Delicious apples and store them for months. Over that time the flavor gradually becomes even milder and the apple gets softer. Perhaps the original variety was better than what is sold now.
How to Use Red Delicious Apples
Red Delicious apples are a great choice for many fresh apple recipes. You’ll also find that adding a few Red Delicious apples to any juice is the perfect way to make it a little sweeter.
You won’t want to use Red Delicious for most baking projects, however, since they are low in acidity. When an apple is baked, some of the starches break down and the apple becomes softer. The more acid in an apple, the less the starches break down. That means tart apples like Granny Smith are usually the best choice for baking, whereas Red Delicious apples break down very quickly.
If you’re making apple juice or apple cider, consider using Red Delicious apples. By themselves, Red Delicious apples produce a sweet and mild juice, but they’re also perfect for mixing with tarter apples like Pink Lady or Granny Smith. The mild flavor of Red Delicious will balance the sharp acidic tang of a tart apple.
Everyone loves making food that looks just as appealing as it tastes. You’ll love using Red Delicious apples as a garnish. Cut the apples into spirals, leaving the red peel on. Then toss it on top of a salad, cocktail, or even soup. Just like that, you’ve added color and texture to bring your dish to the next level.
Next time you have a few Red Delicious apples on hand, try using them in these apple recipes.
- Apple Salad
- Caramel Apple Pizza
- Apple Butter
- Caramel Apple Nachos
- Cranberry Apple Relish
- Red Delicious Apple Sauce
- Apple Cider Slushie
Where to Get Red Delicious Apples
Red Delicious apples grow best in cooler climates. You might see it at an orchard near you in growing zones 5-8. This variety becomes ripe from late September to October. Of course, you can find Red Delicious at almost any grocery store.
A large portion of the Red Delicious Apples in the United States comes from Washington State. The sunny fall and cold winter is perfect for Red Delicious trees. That’s because the apple only gets its trademark red color if there’s enough sun, but it also needs 700-800 cooler hours to produce fruit.
The most flavorful Red Delicious are the ones picked perfectly ripe off a tree. If you have a home orchard or are going to a local farm, pick the apples later in the season, around mid-October. The longer a Red Delicious is left on the tree, the sweeter and more aromatic it becomes. You might be surprised just how much better it tastes!
Care for A Red Delicious Tree
Full-size Red Delicious trees grow up to 25 feet and are fairly easy to grow. It’s a common choice for apple producers because the trees are sturdy and produce well. Add it to your orchard if you’re looking for a pollinator for another variety—it pollinates well with many other popular varieties, such as Honeycrisp.
If you’re growing Red Delicious for your home orchard, first be sure to pick the right location. The tree will need full sun to bear fruit. Plant a seedling in well-draining soil to help avoid fungal diseases. Red Delicious apples grow best in slightly acidic soil.
Water the tree regularly to keep the soil moist, as these trees are not drought-tolerant. Red Delicious apples are susceptible to apple scab and mildew. Be sure to treat with fungicides as necessary to keep your trees in top shape. Prune the tree as needed once or twice a year.
A full-sized Red Delicious tree will bear fruit within 6-10 years. It blooms in late April or early May and bears fruit in September or October. It does require a cross-pollinator – a Gala tree or Granny Smith tree would be a good option.
Fun Facts About Red Delicious Apples
The Red Delicious is the parent apple of several popular modern varieties. The Fuji apple is the sweetest apple in the world, and is a cross between Red Delicious and Rawls Janet. The Empire apple is a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh, and is quickly gaining popularity in the United States.
There’s a legend about the name of Red Delicious. Some say that when Clarence Stark tasted the apple he said, “Delicious!” His exclamation of delight stuck as the name of the apple. Since the bright color became so important, eventually the apples were called Red Delicious.
When the Red Delicious apples were discovered, it was as part of a contest to replace the Ben Davis apple. Ben Davis Apples were the most sold apple before the late 1800s. However, people had begun to complain that Ben Davis apples didn’t actually taste very good. The new apples were supposed to be a more tasty alternative. Ironically, now some people think that Red Delicious apples are also bland!
Now You Know All About Red Delicious Apples!
Red Delicious apples are the perfect addition to your fruit bowl. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a Red Delicious (or several!) for old time’s sake. Even better, pick some fresh from your local orchard.
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