Saturday, March 7, 2009

Red Delicious

Perfect, sultry Red Delicious was my childhood favorite, but I haven't had one in decades. Will this apple be my Proustian madeline?

Everyone probably knows Red Delicious--large, ribbed, impossibly elongated, and a beautiful glossy red with deep purplish streaks, freckled attractively with many light lenticels. Its characteristic conical shape tapers down to prominent bumps or "chins" at its base.

This is the apple the witch gave to Snow White. My sample is extra shiny from wax.

So, here goes. There's crisp juicy yellow flesh that is rather coarser than fine. The taste--well, this is striking--there really isn't any. There's sweetness, a tiny hint of balancing tart that is mostly manifest in a slightly astringent finish, but nothing else. (No Proustian recall for me.)

This taste of this apple is so generic it could almost be that of any number of other fruits, were they similarly stripped of identifying characteristics. (This is not like the lightness of, say, Mutsu, which has distinctive character if not strong flavor.) Not unpleasant, but why bother?

In my early 20s I knew a young woman who had at one point run away with fruit gypsies to pick apples. She sneered at Red Delicious, a "cardboard apple." Still in thrall to my childhood tastes, I didn't understand her. Now I do. Jennifer, you were right.

Update: More on Red Delicious here.

Further update: If you like Red Delicious, you might also like these.


  1. I found you at the help forum.
    I enjoy the Red Delicious. Well, when it is a good one. Some are too ripe or something. Now I admit I haven't tried many varieties, but for Honeycrisp and Fuji, I believe. Honeycrisp at times seems too tart and always appreciate going back to an old favourite. :)

  2. Kim, it can be hard to find a good Red Delicious sometimes. This variety has been in some ways a victim of its own success.

    I recently wrote some suggestions of apples for the Delicious lover to try.

    However, I am surprised that you find Honeycrisp to be, by implication, more tart than Delicious. It casts doubt on my whole project of recommending alternative apple varieties based on what people like.

    If you try some other varieties, I'd be curious to know what you, as a Red D fan, think of them.

  3. Red delicious seems to be a universally hated apple, it's the apple that puts people off to all apples if they haven't had the luck to try different varieties. I personally hate them. Mealy dry texture, no flavor, bitter thick skin. The only redeeming quality appears to be the appearance. I've read that original red delicious apples were must tastier but the good vintage varieties are hard to find.

    1. Sunny, as you can see Delicious does not do much for me, but hate?

      Say rather, She is more to be pitied than censured.

      I mean here was an apple that got sported to a fare-the-well. Isn't that sad?

      Those who did that to her have reaped what they sowed in that department too, and growers seem to have learned good lessons from that experience.

      Or so I like to think!

  4. I have tried the best Red Delicious apples to date. An apple that I once deplored has me singing its praises. I bought a dozen in mid November after the first frost from a market that acquired them from a nearby orchard. These apples smelled so floral that I had free pot pouri until I gobbled them all. Firm, crunchy, juicy and refreshingly delicious- not mealy flavourless tough skin that I have known to date. The skin on the apples was thin and easily digestible. I am so shocked that these were red delicious hat I am going to the orchard next year to see if it is the root stock as I know many of the apples grown in this orchard are not on root stocks and is a traditional orchard. Viola flowers (viola odereta) is what the skin reminded me off. It was certainly not flavourless, but decidedly juicy and floral.

    1. Hi Eve. Whereabouts did these grow?

      I am pleased that someone can defend poor Red Delicious. I am not a fan personally but I also feel that it has become almost trendy to dismiss this variety.

      Whereas, love or hate, the apple is the product of a century of consumer preference reflected in markets and the decisions of farmers. If we hate it, what does that say about us?

  5. Hi Adam,

    The apples were grown in the SE of Ireland. I am accustomed to the awful Red delicious apples everyone is familiar with.

    I have only purchased Red Delicious in Warwickshire England previously which were imported. For many years it was one bite and in the bin. I kept trying this variety though as I have a childhood memory of Red delicious that was exactly like my recent experience. My recent experience of this variety is such an anomaly that I feel compelled to investigate. I previously mentioned the root stock and I wonder if this impacted the flavour. In the Uk and Ireland commercial orchards often grow their apples on a M9 rootstock.

    Where I live in Ireland farmers loath to replace stock and as land is plentiful rather than replace they would simply leave the old tree with original rootstock in situ and plant new varieties in a regimented commercial set up. I believe this may be of significance as I know this orchard has many old apple varieties growing in wildflower meadows next to the commercial set up. Apple trees with M9 rootstocks need to be kept free from any vegetation, wear as apple trees which are grown on their original rootstock often have wildflowers growing around them. I don't believe it was a coincidence that the Red Delicious that I recently purchased were very floral. Could it be that in order for Red Delicious to live up to its namesake it needs to be grown in a wildflower meadow in order to absorb the wildflowers flavours? This orchard has Reine de Reinettes growing this way

    1. There are many aspects of pomaculture that are opaque to me (rootstocks, for instance).

      If the presence of flowers affects flavor—I can't say no to that, but I cannot begin to think what the biological mechanism could be.


Join the conversation! We'd love to know what you think.