Saturday, October 24

Story of an Apple: Golden Delicious

The Golden Delicious is one of the most well known apples in the United States along with its companion the Red Delicious.  Unlike many popular apples today which are the result of an intentional hybridization of existing apple cultivars, the Golden delicious was a product of nature, a chance seedling.  
Found in a pasture on a farm in Clay County, West Virginia, it is believed to be a cross between a Grimes Golden and a Golden Reinette, neither of which is commonly grown today.  The following is an account of the discovery:

“I was born in 1876 on the farm where that apple tree later became famous. My dad was L. L. Mullins, who owned the farm. "Now one day, when I was about 15 years old, that would have been about 1891, dad sent me out with a big old mowin' scythe to mow the pasture field. "I was swingin' away with the scythe when I came across a little apple tree that had grown about 20 inches tall. It was just a new little apple tree that had volunteered there. There wasn't another apple tree right close by anywhere. "I thought to myself, 'Now young feller, I'll just leave you there,' and that's what I did. I mowed around it and on other occasions I mowed around it again and again, and it grew into a nice lookin' little apple tree and eventually it was a big tree and bore apples. "Now my dad later gave that piece of the farm in a trade to my brother, B. W. Mullins, and later still he traded the farm place to Uncle Anderson Mullins. "Uncle Anderson had a brother-in-law named Gus Carnes, and one day Gus and Uncle Anderson decided to send some of the apples to the Star Brothers nursery to tell what kind of apple it was. And that was when the tree became famous and started the Golden Delicious apple line, for it was that tree that has produced every last one of the Golden Delicious apple trees that have ever grown anywhere. "The Starks sent a man to look at the tree, just like you've heard, and they bought the tree and the ground for 30 feet around it, and eventually they fenced it.  They were to get all the fruit from the tree, down to the last apple." [i]
Starks Nursery who bought the propigation rights to the apple began to market it in 1914 as a companion to another one of it's apples, the Red Delicious.  The original tree, which was purchased from Mullins for a sum of five thousand dollars continued to produce fruit until the early 1950's when it finally died.  It has since become a very popular apple and is grown from New England to Washington state.  It was also named the state apple of Virginia in 1955.
The Golden Delicious is one of the later apples to be harvested.  From a pickers perspective I find it to be a fun apple to pick.  Usually large, it is not as easy to bruise as a Macintosh, but if bruised, the golden skin will show it very readily.  When very ripe they often develop a blush where the sun hits them, especially those that have exposure to the early morning rays.  When over ripe they can be a little waxy to the touch and are very aromatic once in the bin.  Although I don't personally find it to be a great keeper, fresh off the tree it is very sweet and if not overly ripe, very crisp.  A great snack on an October afternoon. 
[i]"Dunbar Man 'Discoverer' of Golden Delicious Apple". Charleston Daily Mail. October 18, 1962

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