|Malus 'Red Delicious'|
|Hybrid parentage||Chance seedling|
|Origin||Peru, Iowa, United States|
The 'Red Delicious' is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars, first recognized in Madison County, Iowa, in 1872. It is one of the fifteen most popular apple cultivars in the United States. From 1968 to 2018, it was the most produced cultivar in the U.S.
The 'Red Delicious' originated at an orchard in 1872 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.
The apple became a victim of its own popularity. As consumers began to purchase more of their food from large supermarkets, the apple's popularity encouraged commercial growers to increasingly select for longer storage and cosmetic appeal rather than flavor and palatability, which resulted in a less palatable fruit. In particular the selection of redder fruit caused deselection of flavor, and the genes that produced the yellow stripes on the original fruit were on the same chromosomes as those for the flavor-producing compounds. Breeding for uniformity and storability favored a thicker skin. Later, as other cultivars entered supermarkets, demand for the 'Red Delicious' declined.
In the 1940s the apple was the most popular in the US. In the 1980s, 'Red Delicious' represented three-quarters of the harvest in Washington state, but the selection of beauty and long storage over taste was making the apples less popular, and demand was declining as supermarkets started carrying other varieties. By the 1990s, reliance on the now-unwanted '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.
Farmers began to replace their orchards with other cultivars such as Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp. 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. By 2014 the Washington Apple Commission was recommending growers plan to export 60% or more of production. In 2018 the Gala apple overtook US sales of the Red Delicious for the first time. Through 2020 production continued to decline. The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to further continue decline in demand as many cafeterias and other typical sales points for the apple were closed.
Over the years, many propagable mutations, or sports, have been identified in 'Red Delicious' apple trees. In addition to those propagated without any legal protection (or cut out because they were seen as inferior), 42 sports have been patented in the United States:
|Date||Inventor||Marketed as||Mutated from||Assignee||Habit||Pattern||Earlier||Color||Plant patent number|
|Apr 3, 1934||Shotwell||Delicious||C&O||standard||less stripe||2 wk.||3-4 times||US plant patent 90|
|May 18, 1954||Plough||Royalred1805||Richared||C&O||standard||blush||10 d.||lighter||US plant patent 1278|
|Aug 23, 1955||Brauns||Red King1811||Starking||Van Well||standard||stripe||2 wk.||more complete||US plant patent 1411|
|Feb 12, 1957||Bisbee||Starkrimson||Starking||Stark||spur||blush||"earlier"||similar||US plant patent 1565|
|Feb 3, 1959||Frazier & Jenkins||Starking||Elon J. Gilbert||standard||blush||10 d.||brighter||US plant patent 1805|
|Feb 17, 1959||Hamilton||Hamilton||Hamilton||standard||blush||2 wk.||darker||US plant patent 1811|
|Mar 24, 1959||Gilbert||Redspur||Starking||C&O||spur||blush||later||brighter||US plant patent 1822|
|Feb 23, 1960||Hutchinson||Top Red3556||Shotwell||C&O||standard||striped||2-3 wk.||darker||US plant patent 1916|
|Apr 5, 1960||Wood||Woods, Starkspur2606||Starking||Stark||spur||striped||1 wk.||deeper||US plant patent 1930|
|Sep 24, 1963||Gould||Red Delicious||Miller&Miller||standard||blush||"early"||more intense||US plant patent 2285|
|Aug 11, 1964||Gilbert Miller||Sturdyspur||Starking||Cons. Orch. Co||spur||blush||"early"||dark||US plant patent 2433|
|Aug 25, 1964||Frank Rypczynski||"Frank", Super Starking5569||Starking||Stark||standard||subdued stripes||30 d.||fuller||US plant patent 2440|
|Mar 15, 1966||Cooper||Starkrimson or Welspur||spur||stripe||10-14d.||more intense||US plant patent 2606|
|June 4, 1968||Trumbull||Oregon Spur4819||Red King||Van Well||spur||stripe||2 wk.||darker||US plant patent 2816|
|Dec 23, 1969||Diede||Starking||Stark||standard||more intense||US plant patent 2956|
|Feb 2, 1971||Matson||Stark Earlibrite5547||Ryan Red||Stark||standard||blush||1 month||bright||US plant patent 3025|
|Mar 2, 1971||Maxam||Starking||standard||blush||deeper||US plant patent 3035|
|Apr 13, 1971||Norton||Vance||spur||2-3 wk.||brilliant||US plant patent 3040|
|Feb 19, 1974||Coke||Rose Red||Starking||Rose||spur||blush||from start||dark||US plant patent 3485|
|May 7, 1974||Pagnelli||Starking||Stark||spur||blush||brighter||US plant patent 3541|
|May 28, 1974||Ward||Early Red One4839||Brauns||Van Well||standard||stripe||4 wk.||darker blackish-purple||US plant patent 3556|
|May 28, 1974||Flanagan||Starking||Stark||spur||stripe||before Topred||brighter, lighter||US plant patent 3557|
|June 11, 1974||Slusarenko||unknown||Stark||standard||stripe||4 d. before #2440||red||US plant patent 3567|
|June 25, 1974||Campbell||Red Chief3578||Starkrimson||Hilltop||spur||stripe||"earlier"||deeper, brighter||US plant patent 3578|
|Nov. 29, 1977||Silvers||Silverspur||Hi Early||McCormick||spur||stripe||2 wk. before Hi Early||bright||US plant patent 4159|
|Jan 30, 1979||Craig||Oregon Spur||spur||stripe||2 wk.||darker, heavier||US plant patent 4372|
|Aug 12, 1980||Perleberg||Ace||Starkrimson or Oregon Red||spur||stripe||18 d.||bright but deep||US plant patent 4587|
|Jan 19, 1982||Garretson||Starking||Carlton||<spur / dwarf||blush||bright||US plant patent 4801|
|Feb 2, 1982||Green||Oregon Spur II6190||Oregon Spur||Wells & Wade||spur||stripe||10 d.||dark||US plant patent 4819|
|Apr 20, 1982||Evans et al.||Scarlet Spur6190||Oregon Spur||Van Well||spur||blush||2 wk.||red stem||US plant patent 4839|
|Nov 9, 1982||Coke&Smith||Super Clone4926M||Starking||McCormick, Bountiful Ridge||spur, dwarfing||stripe||no change, late bloom||light||US plant patent 4926|
|Nov 13, 1984||Kemp||Top Spur5334||Starkrimson||C&O||spur||stripe||5-7 d.||deeper, brighter||US plant patent 5334|
|Mar 26, 1985||Hanners||Eve's Delight||Spokane Beauty||stripe||light||US plant patent 5421|
|May 21, 1985||Jenkins||Jenred,5472 Starkspur,5472 Ultrastripe5472||Oregon Spur||Stark||spur||stripe||15 d.||more consistent||US plant patent 5472|
|Sep 3, 1985||Hare||Hared,5547 Dixiered,5547 Starkspur5547||Oregon Spur||Stark||spur||blush||15-20 d.||dark||US plant patent 5547|
|Oct 8, 1985||Gonzalez||Rico7237||Sharp Red||Merleley & al.||standard||stripe||20 d.||US plant patent 5569|
|May 31, 1988||Sandidge||Super Chief||Red Chief||spur||stripe||18 d.||red stem||US plant patent 6190|
|Mar 28, 1989||Valle||Vallee Spur6702||Red Chief||spur||blush||2 wk.||dark red with bloom||US plant patent 6702|
|May 29, 1990||Sali||Sali7237||Redspur||semi-spur||blush||"earliest"||purple tinge||US plant patent 7237|
|Aug 4, 1992||Winkel||AW-164,7928||Redchief||Inter-Plant Patent Marketing||spur||blush||5-10 d.||brighter||US plant patent 7928|
|Mar 23, 1999||Deutscher||Cumberland Spur10,832||Oregon Spur||spur||blush||10-14 d.||complete||US plant patent 10832|
|May 4, 2004||Burchinal||Adams Apple, Burchinal Red Delicious14,757||Oregon Spur II||spur||blush||immediately||more uniform, deeper, purple, bloom||US plant patent 14757|
Well-known but unpatented sports include:
In 1977, the application for #4159 noted the "starchy and bland taste of some of the newer varieties".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Red Delicious.|
The myth-making in US horticulture that consigned Johnny Appleseed to caricature has coloured the background of the 20th century’s most enduring apple.
The reliance on Red Delicious helped push Washington's apple industry to the edge in the late 1990s and into this decade. Depressed prices for Red Delicious, weaker foreign markets, and stiffer competition from abroad, including apple concentrate from China, contributed to major losses in the nation's apple industry, which mounted to $700 million in 2001, according to the U.S. Apple Association. The industry has recovered somewhat since then, in part because reduced harvests have buoyed prices.
Losses piled up. And now the bill has come due. Last month, Congress approved and President Clinton signed the biggest bailout in the history of the apple industry after the government reported that apple growers had lost $760 million in the last three years. ... In trying to create the perfect apple for major supermarket chains, these farmers say, they may have sacrificed taste to cosmetics. The growers say their story is like a fable with lessons for how the nation produces its fresh food.