The Washington Apple Commission describes the Red Delicious on its website as “the world’s favorite snacking apple,” but all schoolchildren who have ever thrown one away know the truth: Red Delicious apples suck.
Bland, sometimes cardboardy in texture and usually covered in wax, they’re still found in gas stations, in bowls at the reception desks of fancy hotels and, yes, in brown bag school lunches. But who likes to eat them?
Not even many growers. Mike Beck, who tends 80 acres of apples at Uncle John’s Cider Mill, admits he grows some Red Delicious to add color to some of his ciders, but he won’t eat them. They’re not among his top 10 snacking apples. Or his top 100.
“They’re not even in my top 2,000 eating apples,” says Beck, who served for 15 years on the Michigan Apple Committee. “It’s not a totally bad apple, but I know, for a lot of growers, it’s not one of the apples they’re saving in their personal cold storage. I can tell you that.”
So why did the Red Delicious become so popular, and why has it come to suck so hard? The answer lies in agricultural and eating history.
The Red Delicious was first called the Hawkeye, and Jesse Hiatt found it growing on his farm in Peru, Iowa, around 1870. “It came up as a seedling in his orchard,” says Charlotte Shelton, the owner of Albemarle Ciderworks and Vintage Virginia Apples. “He dug it up, but it kept coming up. He was Quaker, and he thought that because of its persistence, maybe it deserved to live.” READ MORE