November Produce Parable – Iowa Apples –

The Original “Delicious”

In 1870, on a farm in Madison County, Iowa, Jesse Hiatt tried and tried to chop down a tree on his farmland to make way for valuable row crops. The tree just kept coming back, so eventually he left well enough alone and let the tree grow. That tree started to produce apples. He liked the look of their distinctive five bumps on the bottom, as well as the taste of them, so he named them “Hawkeye” apples and started sending them off to fruit shows in 1893 to little fanfare. Then the Stark Nursery in Louisiana bought the rights to propagate the tree for $85, renamed it the Red Delicious and from there went on to become the most popular apple in the United States.

But what ever happened to that first Red Delicious apple tree? The original tree “died” on November 11, 1940 due to the Armistice Day blizzard that year. In 1946, four new sprouts had grown up from the stump of the original tree, and one of the sprouts became a full grown tree. The tree “died” again and the roots lay dormant in the soil until 1985. That was when the owner of the farm noticed three sprouts coming up out of the dead stump. The sprouts were dug up and moved back to the house on the farm, but only one of the sprouts managed to live.

Thirteen years ago that sprouted tree was removed from the yard of the farmhouse and replanted back in the spot of the original stump. A large rock was taken to the site and engraved to commemorate the importance of this one unassuming tree.

Four grafts were taken from this tree and grafted onto trees at Iowa State University’s horticultural research farm, and those trees survived and grow fruit to this day. In fact, Wheatsfield Cooperative managed to get a hold of some of these apples, but only two bushels (about 75 pounds). We will be marketing these apples as “Original Delicious” as “Red Delicious” in today’s world is synonymous with a mealy, bland, thick and bitter skinned apple. Be sure to stop in and pick up a couple of these apples, and sink your teeth into a bite of Iowa and apple history!