Golden Delicious Apples: The Crisp Yellow Ancestor To Our Tastiest Apples

Not all apples are created equal. Only the best are saved for commercial cultivation… and Golden Delicious are one of the oldest and most classic varieties.

Golden Delicious apples are a popular, medium-sized apple discovered in the early 1900’s in West Virginia. These crisp, firm apples have a creamy-white interior and a thin yellow peel with light speckles. Golden Delicious apples are perfect for baking into a scrumptious apple pie or for eating straight off the tree!

Read on to learn more about Golden Delicious apples.

Golden Delicious Apple on Tree

The Origins of Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples are from West Virginia, USA. They were discovered on the Mullins’ family farm in Clay County in the early 1900’s. A chance seedling tree was left to grow into a full size tree that bore huge, yellow apples. Here is a tale about the discovery and cultivation of the first Golden Delicious apple tree.

Stark Brothers Nursery purchased the rights to the cultivar from Anderson Mullins in 1914. The nursery had seen success with their Red Delicious apple, and decided to market the new, unrelated yellow apple as a companion variety. To this day, both Golden Delicious and Red Delicious are supermarket staples!

Clay, WV holds a special Golden Delicious Festival each year in celebration of the local discovery, and the variety is also the official state fruit of West Virginia. Golden Delicious is a very popular apple in its own right, but is also a parent variety to some other wildly-popular apples.

Golden Delicious apples are not genetically-modified (they are not GMO). This variety was a result of natural cross-pollination of different varieties that just happened to create a wonderful offspring apple. New Golden Delicious trees are made by grafting sticks from existing trees onto separate rootstocks (humans have been grafting trees for thousands of years).

Note: In the USA, it is possible to buy Golden Delicious apples that have been genetically-engineered (GMO). These GE apples are called Arctic Apples and are sold as pre-packaged sliced apples in select US cities (mainly in the Midwest).

Inside of a Golden Delicious variety apple
Here is what the inside of a Golden Delicious apple looks like!

What Do Golden Delicious Apples Taste Like?

Golden Delicious apples have a gentle sweet flavour with a hint of spice. The flesh is fine-textured and the peel is thin and easy to bite through. Golden Delicious apples are crisp, but not too crunchy, with a medium softness in comparison to other varieties. The best ones have just enough acidity to balance the sweetness.

Fresh apples from the orchard tend to have a rich, sweet flavour, while imported varieties tend to have a more mellow taste due to premature harvest and flavour decline in storage. If you’re picking Golden Delicious apples, look for those that truly are “golden” in colour, rather than the unripe green ones. The flavour is best when they ripen on the tree!

Some of the best-tasting apple varieties are descendants of Golden Delicious. The ever-popular Gala and Pink Lady apples both have Golden Delicious as a parent. Delicious Ambrosia apples are thought to have Golden Delicious as a parent, while genetic testing of much sought-after Honeycrisp apples indicates Golden Delicious as a likely grandparent.

Golden Delicious Apples Trees in Orchard

Where are Golden Delicious Apples Grown?

Golden Delicious apples are grown all over the world in warmer apple-growing regions. Here are some of the places where Golden Delicious are grown:

  • USA (West Virginia, North Carolina, California, Washington)
  • Canada (British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia)
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Chile
  • South Africa

Harvest of Golden Delicious Apples

Harvest season for Golden Delicious apples occurs in September and October in North America. This variety is generally a reliable producer and great for long-term storage through winter. While these apples can be stored for many months, off-season apples are generally imported from Australia, where they ripen in February and March.

Golden Delicious Apple

Tips for Buying Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples are one of the most popular and easily available types of apples in the world. These beauties can be found everywhere from supermarkets to specialty orchards.

Golden Delicious apples generally cost about $1-$2 per pound. There are about 2 or 3 Golden Delicious apples in a pound. An individual apple may retail for less than a dollar at a grocery store to $1-$2 at a take-out deli or sandwich shop.

How to Grow Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples are easy to grow in comparison to many other varieties of apple tree. They have a short growing season, wide climate tolerance, and a high production reliability.

Golden Delicious apple trees can be grown in USDA Zones 4-9, meaning they can be grown in all but the hottest and coldest regions. They don’t bloom terribly early, making them a good choice for areas with unpredictable late spring frosts. They are also somewhat self-pollinating, although they will set more fruit if a different variety of apple (or crabapple) is planted nearby.

“While bees will travel 2-3 km (1.2-1.9 miles) to seek the nectar from fruit trees, there is a greater success with cross-pollination if the trees are planted close together.”

Growing Urban Orchards: How to Care for Fruit Trees in the City and Beyond, by Susan Poizner

Plant your Golden Delicious apple tree in an area with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Choose an area with well-drained soil if possible. Dig a wide planting hole that is only as deep as the soil in the plant pot of the tree. Place the tree in the hole and backfill with the existing soil. Water the tree deeply after planting and place a thin layer of compost on the soil all around the tree (taking care not to push the compost up against the actual tree bark).

The young Golden Delicious apple tree will need consistent watering for the first few years as it becomes established. Backyard apple trees are generally best pruned in early spring, just before they come out of winter dormancy. Most backyard trees are pruned to have a single “central leader” vertical branch that goes straight up the middle, like a Christmas tree. Competing vertical branches are shortened. Also remove any branches that are dead, dying, diseased, or damaged (the 4 D’s).

Long-Term Storage of Golden Delicious Apples

Storage of Golden Delicious apples is relatively easy and reliable. These apples can keep for 3-4 months in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. In commercial cold storage, Golden Delicious apples can keep for 8 months or longer! They are generally considered an excellent variety for long-term storage. Always look for undamaged fruits without bruising when choosing apples to store.

making a golden delicious apple charcuterie board

What to Make With Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples can be used to make fresh appetizer plates, homemade applesauce, or classic apple pies. These apples are excellent for cooking, baking, and for eating raw straight off the tree!

Golden Delicious Apple Recipes

Here are some recipes for Golden Delicious apples:

Baking with Golden Delicious Apples

Golden Delicious apples are excellent for baking. They have a balanced, sweet flavour and tend to hold their shape when cooked. Baking with Golden Delicious apples is quite common for all kinds of cooked recipes, especially for those who want to use only one type of apple rather than create a blend of different varieties.

different types of apples in brown bags on wooden orchard shelves in store

Substitutes for Golden Delicious Apples

There are several good substitutes for Golden Delicious apples. For fresh eating, the best similar options are Pink Lady, Ambrosia, and Honeycrisp. For apple pies, try Braeburn, Gala, JonaGold, or a blend of Granny Smith with McIntosh.

Several of these similar apples are actually child varieties of Golden Delicious. The following apples are direct descendants of Golden Delicious:

  • Gala (‘Kidds Orange’ × ‘Golden Delicious’)
  • Cripps Pink/Pink Lady (‘Golden Delicious’ × ‘Lady Williams’)
  • Ambrosia (believed to be ‘Starking Delicious’ × ‘Golden Delicious’)
  • Jonagold (‘Golden Delicious’ × ‘Jonathan’)

Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a home gardener who loves creating healthy, welcoming spaces (indoors and out!) - About Mary Jane (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/authors/about-mary-jane-duford/)

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