If you were to ask us to describe our least favorite apple, we’d say the Red Delicious varietal aren’t so much America’s shittiest fruit subgroup as they are pasty, coarse, semisweet hunks of plywood carved by agriculture goblins as part of some sick, cruel joke thrust upon elementary school students, hotel guests, and already suffering hospital patients.
They’re just really, really, really bad; an annoyance that is compounded by the knowledge that somehow, some way, Red Delicious were the nation’s top-selling apple for over 50 years until Galas dethroned them in 2018. It begs the question: if Red Delicious apples are so reviled, how the hell did they maintain such success for so long? The answer? Incest.
Alright, maybe that’s an oversimplification of the story, but that does seem to be one of the main takeaways from a write-up courtesy of New England Today making the online rounds recently. After its chance discovery in 1893 during a Missouri apple-tasting contest—something that sounds extremely on brand for 1893—“Stark Delicious” apples (originally named for the company that purchased the seed rights) began distributing to the masses. By 1914, it had been renamed as the iconic Red Delicious, but already its decline was all but assured.
“It turns out that a lot of the genes that coded for the flavor-producing compounds were on the same chromosomes as the genes for the yellow striped skin,” Yankee food editor Amy Traverso describes, “So as you favored the more consistently colored apples, you were essentially disfavoring the same genes that coded for great flavor.”
Essentially, the darker the apple, the shittier the fruit. Traverso also explains that the deeply red, thick apple skin of Red Delicious, while great for keeping fruit fresh during long distance transportation routes, further added to the variety’s unpleasantness.
Red Delicious apples are quite literally all style and no substance in 2021, the product of generations of fruit in-breeding that has resulted in a dry, bland offering that’s more suitable for horses than human consumption. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in all this about apples and greed and a fall from grace... but we’re too busy enjoying this Pink Lady Apple. Y’know, the true apple champion.
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