What went wrong with red delicious apples?

by on August 7, 2005 at 1:18 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

I now find these apples inedible.  Why?  Falling prices led to overbreeding and lack of care:

Who’s to blame for the decline of Red Delicious? Everyone, it seems. Consumers were drawn to the eye candy of brilliantly red apples, so supermarket chains paid more for them. Thus, breeders and nurseries patented and propagated the most rubied mutations, or "sports," that they could find, and growers bought them by the millions, knowing that these thick-skinned wonders also would store for ages…

The Washington harvest begins in mid-August and runs to late October, and most apples sold through December are simply stored in refrigerated warehouses. Fruit shipped later in this cycle is kept in a more sophisticated environment called controlled-atmosphere storage — airtight rooms where the temperatures are chilly, the humidity high and the oxygen levels reduced to a bare minimum to arrest aging. Last year’s fruit will be sold through September, just as the new harvest is in full swing.

Storage apples must be picked before all their starches turn to sugar. Pick too late, and the apple turns mealy in the supermarket, but pick too soon, and the apple will never taste sweet. Growers test for optimum conditions, but today’s popular strains of Red Delicious turn color two to three weeks before harvest, making it difficult for pickers to distinguish an apple that is ready from one that isn’t…

The grower could deliver a better apple by harvesting a tree in two or three waves — the outside fruit ripens earlier than fruit in the center of the tree. This is done for Galas and other premium varieties, but the prices for Red Delicious are so depressed that farmers can’t afford that. "You would put yourself out of business," said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., a major grower in Wenatchee. In addition, the redder strains’ thicker skins, found to be rich in antioxidants, taste bitter to many palates.

The bottom line is that this practice has backfired.  Consumers are no longer looking to buy artificial fruits simply for their color or durability.  Here is the full story, and please support this trend by refusing to buy the standard red delicious apple.

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