|Hybrid parentage||Chance seedling|
|Origin||Peru, Iowa, USA|
The Red Delicious is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars, recognized in Madison County, Iowa, United States, in 1880. As new cultivars with improved color and earlier harvestability have replaced the original cultivar in commercial orchards, the taste and texture of the harvested commodity have deteriorated, and many customers have begun to reject the 'Red Delicious' as being a markedly inferior tasting variety at the food market. Roger Yepsen notes some of its less desirable qualities, "The skin is thick and bitter and has to be chewed vigorously... this apple ranks close to the bottom when cooked... sold year round, so shop with skepticism. Delicious retains its cheerful good looks long after its flavor has departed."
The 'Red Delicious' originated at an orchard in 1880 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.
In the 1980s, 'Red Delicious' represented three-quarters of the harvest in Washington state. A decade later, reliance on '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. 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.
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||standard||less stripe||2 wk.||3-4 times|
|May 18, 1954||Plough||Royalred1805||Richared||C&O||standard||blush||10 d.||lighter|
|Aug 23, 1955||Brauns||Red King1811||Starking||Van Well||standard||stripe||2 wk.||more complete|
|Feb 12, 1957||Bisbee||Starkrimson||Starking||Stark||spur||blush||"earlier"||similar|
|Feb 3, 1959||Frazier & Jenkins||Starking||Elon J. Gilbert||standard||blush||10 d.||brighter|
|Feb 17, 1959||Hamilton||Hamilton||Hamilton||standard||blush||2 wk.||darker|
|Mar 24, 1959||Gilbert||Redspur||Starking||C&O||spur||blush||later||brighter|
|Feb 23, 1960||Hutchinson||Top Red3556||Shotwell||C&O||standard||striped||2-3 wk.||darker|
|Apr 5, 1960||Wood||Woods, Starkspur2606||Starking||Stark||spur||striped||1 wk.||deeper|
|Sep 24, 1963||Gould||Red Delicious||Miller&Miller||standard||blush||"early"||more intense|
|Aug 11, 1964||Gilbert Miller||Sturdyspur||Starking||Cons. Orch. Co||spur||blush||"early"||dark|
|Aug 25, 1964||Frank Rypczynski||"Frank", Super Starking5569||Starking||Stark||standard||subdued stripes||30 d.||fuller|
|Mar 15, 1966||Cooper||Starkrimson or Welspur||spur||stripe||10-14d.||more intense|
|June 4, 1968||Trumbull||Oregon Spur4819||Red King||Van Well||spur||stripe||2 wk.||darker|
|Dec 23, 1969||Diede||Starking||Stark||standard||more intense|
|Feb 2, 1971||Matson||Stark Earlibrite5547||Ryan Red||Stark||standard||blush||1 month||bright|
|Mar 2, 1971||Maxam||Starking||standard||blush||deeper|
|Apr 13, 1971||Norton||Vance||spur||2-3 wk.||brilliant|
|Feb 19, 1974||Coke||Rose Red||Starking||Rose||spur||blush||from start||dark|
|May 7, 1974||Pagnelli||Starking||Stark||spur||blush||brighter|
|May 28, 1974||Ward||Early Red One4839||Brauns||Van Well||standard||stripe||4 wk.||darker blackish-purple|
|May 28, 1974||Flanagan||Starking||Stark||spur||stripe||before Topred||brighter, lighter|
|June 11, 1974||Slusarenko||unknown||Stark||standard||stripe||4 d. before #2440||red|
|June 25, 1974||Campbell||Red Chief3578||Starkrimson||Hilltop||spur||stripe||"earlier"||deeper, brighter|
|Nov. 29, 1977||Silvers||Silverspur||Hi Early||McCormick||spur||stripe||2 wk. before Hi Early||bright|
|Jan 30, 1979||Craig||Oregon Spur||spur||stripe||2 wk.||darker, heavier|
|Aug 12, 1980||Perleberg||Ace||Starkrimson or Oregon Red||spur||stripe||18 d.||bright but deep|
|Jan 19, 1982||Garretson||Starking||Carlton||<spur / dwarf||blush||bright|
|Feb 2, 1982||Green||Oregon Spur II6190||Oregon Spur||Wells & Wade||spur||stripe||10 d.||dark|
|Apr 20, 1982||Evans et al.||Scarlet Spur6190||Oregon Spur||Van Well||spur||blush||2 wk.||red stem|
|Nov 9, 1982||Coke&Smith||Super Clone4926M||Starking||McCormick, Bountiful Ridge||spur, dwarfing||stripe||no change, late bloom||light|
|Nov 13, 1984||Kemp||Top Spur5334||Starkrimson||C&O||spur||stripe||5-7 d.||deeper, brighter|
|Mar 26, 1985||Hanners||Eve's Delight||Spokane Beauty||stripe||light|
|May 21, 1985||Jenkins||Jenred,5472 Starkspur,5472 Ultrastripe5472||Oregon Spur||Stark||spur||stripe||15 d.||more consistent|
|Sep 3, 1985||Hare||Hared,5547 Dixiered,5547 Starkspur5547||Oregon Spur||Stark||spur||blush||15-20 d.||dark|
|Oct 8, 1985||Gonzalez||Rico7237||Sharp Red||Merleley & al.||standard||stripe||20 d.|
|May 31, 1988||Sandidge||Super Chief||Red Chief||spur||stripe||18 d.||red stem|
|Mar 28, 1989||Valle||Vallee Spur6702||Red Chief||spur||blush||2 wk.||dark red with bloom|
|May 29, 1990||Sali||Sali7237||Redspur||semi-spur||blush||"earliest"||purple tinge|
|Aug 4, 1992||Winkel||AW-164,7928||Redchief||Inter-Plant Patent Marketing||spur||blush||5-10 d.||brighter|
|Mar 23, 1999||Deutscher||Cumberland Spur10,832||Oregon Spur||spur||blush||10-14 d.||complete|
|May 4, 2004||Burchinal||Adams Apple, Burchinal Red Delicious14,757||Oregon Spur II||spur||blush||immediately||more uniform, deeper, purple, bloom|
Well-known but unpatented sports include:
- 'Chelan Red', which has been described as having oxblood red fruit
- 'Hi Early'
- 'Mood2433' or 'Starking', which colors about 2 wk before "standard Delicious"1411
- 'Richared' - brighter red than standard, blush, not stripe 1278
- 'Sharp Red'
- 'Spokane Beauty'
In 1977, the application for #4159 noted the "starchy and bland taste of some of the newer varieties."
- Egan, Timothy (November 4, 2000). "'Perfect' Apple Pushed Growers Into Debt". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
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.
- Yepsen, Roger (1994). Apples. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-03690-1.
- Higgins, Adrian (August 5, 2005). "Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is". The Washington Post.
- Leona (Lee) Novy Jackson, "Delicious Apples and Their History", Apples, Apples Everywhere—Favorite Recipes From America's Orchards. ISBN 0-930643-11-9. Images Unlimited Publishing. Maryville, MO.
- Mulcaster, Glenn (November 3, 2009). "History of a Golden Opportunity.". THE AGE Epicure.
The myth-making in US horticulture that consigned Johnny Appleseed to caricature has coloured the background of the 20th century’s most enduring apple.
- Higgins, Adrian (August 5, 2005). "Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is. Decades of Makeovers Alter Apple to Its Core.". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
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.