A modest wooden sign on the north side of East Peru in Madison County, Iowa, marks the city’s discovery of the famous apple variety in 1892, five years after the community was founded. At the time, Louisiana-based Stark Nurseries held a contest to replace the “Ben Davis” apple, which was declining in nationwide popularity due to its lack of flavor. East Peru-area farmer Jesse Hiatt sent in the winning apple, which he called “Hawkeye.” The nursery bought rights to the apple and began growing it under the “Delicious” moniker.
Now labeled “Red Delicious,” the apple saw many changes over the years, as producers were able to make it firmer and juicer while allowing it to be stored in sealed warehouses for up to 12 months. In the 1980s, the Red Delicious represented nearly three-quarters of apple production in the state of Washington, the United States’ main apple producer. American consumers began to sour on the apple as other varieties gained prominence; by 2003, the Red Delicious apple lost over half its market share.