Red Delicious Tumbles From Its Perch as America's Most-Grown Apple

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Quick, imagine an apple. You're probably picturing a Red Delicious, the brightly colored, solid fruit that has landed on teacher's desks and in lunchboxes for decades. But as of 2018, big Reds will no longer top the tree as America's most-grown apple. According to the U.S. Apple Association, Gala apples, which originated in New Zealand in the 1930s, are about to nab the top branch.

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The trade group has predicted a list of the top-grown apple types for 2018. Their list includes Gala in the top spot, Red Delicious falling to No. 2, Granny Smith in third place, Fuji in fourth, and Honeycrisp in fifth. Gala production is expected to jump from 49.5 million apples in 2017 to 52.4 million in 2018, while Red Delicious is expected to decrease from 57.9 million to 51.7 million.

Red Delicious has a long and storied history, dating to 1880. A century later, in the 1980s, it represented three-quarters of the harvest in apple hotbed Washington State. But the brightly colored apple is no longer a flavor favorite, and is sometimes criticized for tasting mealy or bland.

"The rise in production of newer varieties of apples aimed at the fresh consumption domestic market has caused demand for Red Delicious to decline," Mark Seetin, U.S. Apple director of regulatory and industry affairs, said in a statement. "However, Red Delicious is important in the export market, where it makes up roughly half of our apple exports."

U.S. Apple says Gala's jump in popularity is due to eaters enjoying its sweetness, texture and taste, and growers finding it easy to produce. The apples are firm and crisp, with an aromatic flavor and a mottled skin color, and tend towards smaller fruits, making them good kid lunchbox choices.

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But the apple hierarchy could shift more: Honeycrisp is on the move. The group predicts that not only will Honeycrisp make the leap to fifth place this year, but it will continue climbing and take the third-place spot in a year or two.

Last year, Honeycrisp production reached 19.3 million units; this year, the apple is forecasted to reach 23.5 million. Honeycrisp was developed at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and released in 1991. It's praised for its sweet, tart flavor and juiciness.

Whether or not you find Red Delicious to be delicious, if apples are your core treat, check out this list of where to find America's best apple pies.

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