Red delicious apples tasted good until farmers bred the flavor out

Originally published at: Red delicious apples tasted good until farmers bred the flavor out | Boing Boing


I wondered why I always hated them.


Meanwhile, apples in Japan cost the equivalent of 1~3 dollars a piece (ETA: not per pound or kilo, but per apple), and that’s not even getting into the fancy varieties. Worth every penny, though.


I remember them being so much better as a kid.


Apple types are extremely weird. Per Wikipedia:

The ’ Red Delicious’ is a clone of apple cultigen, now comprising more than 50 cultivars, first recognized in Madison County, Iowa, in 1872.

It’s a clone because apple trees are cultivated by grafting not by growing seeds.

So can someone explain how a clone is selectively bred? Did they just prefer trees with redder apples for sourcing graftable branches etc?


In my 70s Washington state high school cafeteria, we had a large, glass-sided Red Delicious apple vending machine. Must have held at least a hundred apples, but I only saw them used as projectiles.


Likewise! They were my favorite growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, then somewhere along the way they became terrible. Interesting to know that wasn’t my imagination.


This is what I haven’t understood about the notion that Red Delicious has been subject to selection pressure – propagation of fruit trees is done by cloning, so the normal variation that occurs via sexual reproduction isn’t part of the equation. Genetically speaking, all trees of the same variety are (at least above the rootstock) the same tree.

Is it possible that mutations still occur in the trees and are replicated through the cloning process? Any plant biologists here who have insight into this?

Or perhaps what has really happened is that one or more offspring varieties of Red Delicious have been created and sold/marketed under the same name. Which seems more likely to me.


Just to be clear, apple trees are propagated by grafting and cloning not planting from seeds. If you plant from seeds you get basically an entirely new and different variety that will probably taste bad. There are still mutations and genetic drift and you can selective for appearance over taste, but it is not the same type of “breeding” that happens with sexual reproduction in animals or plants.


An apple is an excellent thing—until you have tried a peach.
George du Maurier


I feel like this is true of most of our fresh foods. Tomatoes for example:.

They are grown from seed and they’ve been selecting them for size, colour and the ability to travel well. Meaning we get thick skinned watery flavourless tomatoes in groceries. Farmers’ markets are better but the best thing you could do for tomatoes is to grow your own, save seeds and trade them.

Apples though? No clue, but they’ve got GMO apple up in Canada now that don’t go brown when you cut them. Fuck that, I say.


Me too. Tomatoes were better, too.

Slightly off topic but still apples: Around 1995 or so I started getting really bad stomach cramps after eating store bought apples, after having enjoyed them with no problems for decades. By cramps, I mean regular (every two to five minutes), literally gut-wrenching painful cramps that continue for twenty-four hours, with no other symptoms. Same continued after I moved to Germany, when I decided to try them again. But I can eat apples from sister-in-law’s garden all day long with no problem. She has two different old cultivars. Did they do something to apples in the 90’s?


In the 90’s a coworker of mine pulled an apple out of the garbage that he had put there the day before. He had taken a bite and said it just didn’t taste right. The bite mark still looked totally fresh.

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I thought Red Delicious tasted better when I was a kid!

ETA: @KathyPartdeux and @VeronicaConnor , you beat me to it!


Always disliked them. Why did mom get them? Probably cheaper?

I like Galas, Fujis, Pink Ladys, Honey Crisps now.




They were. When I was a kid in the '60s and '70s, we’d go to the orchard and sit in the trees and eat our fill of red delicious. They were absolutely perfect right off the tree. Always my favorite. I recall first finding them thick-skinned and bitter in the mid-'90s or thereabouts.

Best substitute now, for me, are Fujis.


Granny Smiths are my go to Apple. I like tart fruits, plums, small grapes,


But Fuji apples are amazing. Is the implication of this story that they probably used to taste even better?