Monday, June 3, 2013

The most underrated apple

Sturdy, modest, and reliable, is Golden Delicious anyone's favorite?

I turn to it with pleasure in the off season, and apple breeders return to it again and again for its amiable eating and growing qualities.

At its best GD is a lovely fruit, sweet and mild with hints of pear and honey, crisp and juicy but not hard. It is often near its best, and available in supermarkets year round.

There's just enough underlying tartness to balance the honey and deliver a clean finish.

Discovered as a chance seedling in West Virginia 1891, Golden Delicious is thought to have fallen not far from the tree of the excellent, if less sturdy, Grimes Golden.

Starks Brothers popularized Golden D in the early 20th century and gave it a name to match its popular Red Delicious. The two varieties are not otherwise related.

Smoothee Golden Delicious, a variant
Golden Delicious remains among the top half-dozen apples grown in the United States, and its place in the supermarket pantheon secure.

Nonetheless production of this variety has dropped from 1.7 billion pounds in 1987 to an estimated 0.8 billion pounds in 2012, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

That's still a lot of apples, and Golden Delicious is hardly without honor, in its own country or out of it. There's a Golden Delicious Festival every September in West Virginia, where the apple has been the state fruit since 1995.

Ozark Gold
Growers and breeders also value this variety, both as a pollinator and for the tastes, textures, and growing characteristics in its genes..

See for instance the long (yet incomplete) list of descendent varieties (scroll down) listed at Orange Pippin. Offspring include Gala, Piñata, Blushing Golden, and Ozark Gold.

Golden Delicious also deserves respect in its own right. Do we perhaps take it for granted? Would we not miss it if it vanished from the market? At more than a century, it qualifies as an heirloom variety.

The boy who found this variety in 1891 left us his story.

I just wanted you and [e]very body else to know that I'm the fellow that didn't cut down that apple tree seedling one day when I was mowin' the pasture field.


  1. I was THE fussiest eater as a child, golden delicious was the only apple i would touch. Not too sweet, not tangy, not to hard nor too soft. The princess and the apple rather than the pea!

  2. Golden Delicious was my favorite apple some 25 years ago, when there were few other choices in the supermarkets. The Golden Delicious I remember were more golden, with more of a blush, than the ones I've seen in my supermarket lately. Perhaps they pick them earlier these days? Sometimes the Golden Delicious I used to know got a bit soft and shrunken--maybe they pick them earlier now to avoid that eventuality.

    1. Growers do pick fruit too soon, and not only for the reason you mention. It's too bad!

      Modern storage techniques also prolong the storage life of apples. Even so I find that GD starts to go by this time of year. The imports from the southern hemisphere are pretty good around now.

  3. Adam,

    Check out an or hard in my neighborhood. Eastman's Antique Apples. 1500 cultivars on 14 acres, 4000 trees. Most amazing orchard I have been in. The owners, who inherited it haven't even tasted all their apples.


  4. Out west here in the Willamette Valley (Oregon), as a kid I loved to eat these right off the tree when the color was still greenish --- a "green delicious" variety! So crispy, running with juice, and a tangy sweetness that no other apple had. Less favorite when purchased in a store; sweet & gold but lost that snappy tree freshness.

    1. Most of us encounter Golden D through the wholesale-retail system: stored in warehouses under controlled conditions, shipped around the country, and sold in supermarkets.

      The apple bears this treatment well (hence its commercial appeal) but is never as good as fresh off the tree. In some ways Colden Delicious is the victim of its own success.


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