Red Delicious

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Red Delicious
SpeciesMalus domestica
Hybrid parentageChance seedling
Cultivar'Red Delicious'
OriginPeru, Iowa, United States
Rows of trees under hail nets
Ripe Red Delicious are uniformly red

Red Delicious is a type of apple with a red exterior and sweet taste that was first recognized in Madison County, Iowa, in 1872. Today, the name Red Delicious comprises more than 50 cultivars. It was the most produced cultivar in the United States from 1968 to 2018, when it was surpassed by Gala.[1][2][3]


The 'Red Delicious' originated at an orchard in 1872 as "a round, blushed yellow fruit of surpassing sweetness".[4][5] Stark Nurseries held a competition in 1892[6] to find an apple to replace the 'Black 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,[7] in 1914; the 'Delicious' became the 'Red Delicious' as a retronym.[5]

Selective breeding and decline in demand[edit]

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.[5][8][2] 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.[2] Breeding for uniformity and storability favored a thicker skin.[2] Later, as other cultivars entered supermarkets, demand for the 'Red Delicious' declined.[8][9]

In the 1940s the apple was the most popular in the US.[10] 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.[10] By the 1990s, reliance on the now-unwanted 'Red Delicious' had helped to push Washington state's apple industry "to the edge" of collapse.[5] 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.[9]

Farmers began to replace their orchards with other cultivars such as Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp.[2] 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.[5][10] By 2014 the Washington Apple Commission was recommending growers plan to export 60% or more of production.[10] In 2018 the Gala apple overtook US sales of the Red Delicious for the first time.[2] Through 2020 production continued to decline.[11] 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.[11]

Sports (mutations)[edit]

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 Henry Shotwell Shotwell Delicious 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 Chelan Red[12] 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 C.L. Cooper, Washington, US Regal Chelan Spur 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 Herbert Diede Washington, US Red Bouquet 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 A.M. Ward, Washington, US 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 Fred Campbell, Washington, US Red Chief3578 Starkrimson Hilltop spur stripe "earlier" deeper, brighter US plant patent 3578
Apr 13, 1976 A.G. Staniforth, B.C. Canada Spured Royal Delicious Royal Delicious Okanogan Nursery USPP 3864
May 11, 1976 C.L. Cooper, Washington, US Starkspur Prime Red Topred Delicious Stark tree smaller than Topred Delicious USPP 3882
Nov. 29, 1977 Silvers Silverspur Hi Early McCormick spur stripe 2 wk. before Hi Early bright US plant patent 4159
Jan 30, 1979 Craig Bright 'N Early 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 Van Well Nursery spur stripe 18 d. red stem US plant patent 6190
Mar 28, 1989 J. E. Valle, Washington, US 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 Arden Winkel, Michigan, US Earlichief 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

Unpatented sports[edit]

Unpatented sports
Name Discovered / Introduced Originated Remarks
Adams Delicious 1954 / 1956 Oregon, US darker red than Delicious
Clawson 1945/1952 Washington, US about two-thirds size of a typical Starking Delicious
Dieterich Delicious 1950/1960 California, US skin solid red
Evarts Delicious / c. 1950
Hardibrite Red Delicious 1970/1975 Oregon, US
'Hi Early'
Houser Red Delicious 1953 / 1958
Hubbs Delicious 1950/1950 Oregon, US colors earlier and darker than parent
Huebner Starking 1957/1962 British Columbia, Canada striped
Maehara Starking 1954/1955 British Columbia, Canada red overcolor 10 days before than of parent.
'Mood2433' or 'Starking' which colors about 2 weeks before "standard Delicious"1411
Morgan Spur Delicious 1957/1969 Washington, US
Morspur 1959/ Washington, US
Nured Royal Delicious 1966/1976 Washington, US
Parrish Delicious 1934 / 1946
Pittman Red Delicious 1948 / 1956
Red Stark / 1927
Redwin 1925 / 1928
'Richared' / 1926 brighter red than standard, blush, not stripe 1278
'Sharp Red Delicious' 1963/1969 Washington, US
'Spokane Beauty'

In 1977, the application for #4159 noted the "starchy and bland taste of some of the newer varieties".

The plant patent for #4926 promoted the sport as a dwarfing interstock, a dwarfing rootstock for pears, or to produce "crab apple"-sized 'Delicious' apples.


  1. ^ 2018 Annual Review Archived 2019-01-24 at the Wayback Machine U.S. Apple Association.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Red Delicious Apples Weren't Always the Worst". New England Today. 2019-09-24. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  3. ^ Apple varieties by US Apple Association
  4. ^ Susan Dolan (2009). Fruitful Legacy: A Historic Context of Orchards in the United States, with Technical Information for Registering Orchards in the National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service, Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, Pacific West Regional Office, Cultural Resources, Park Historic Structures and Cultural Landscapes Program. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-16-082127-1.
  5. ^ a b c d e 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.
  6. ^ Leona (Lee) Novy Jackson, "Delicious Apples and Their History""Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2009-10-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), Apples, Apples Everywhere—Favorite Recipes From America's Orchards. ISBN 0-930643-11-9. Images Unlimited Publishing. Maryville, MO.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b "Red Delicious Apples Didn't Always Suck. Here's What Happened". HuffPost. 2018-08-22. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  9. ^ a b Egan, Timothy (November 4, 2000). "'Perfect' Apple Pushed Growers Into Debt". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-08-24. 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.
  10. ^ a b c d Sarah Yager (September 10, 2014). "The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Will the pandemic kill off more red delicious apples? – Produce Blue Book". 13 November 2020. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  12. ^ Brooks and Olmo, Register of New Fruit and Nut Varieties, 1972