A Quick History of America’s ‘Surprise Apple’

Chances are you’ll find some great ones in the Pacific Northwest

Francois de Melogue
Heated
Published in
6 min readOct 10, 2019

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Mountain Rose Apple, photo by Francois de Melogue

For those of us who revel in the sensualities of life, fall is a wonderfully bountiful time of year. Trees are adorned in the vibrant autumn hues of deep reds and golden yellows. Much-needed rains replenish depleted aquifers and awaken the slumbering wild mushroom spores. Soon chanterelles, boletes, and matsutake will poke their curious heads through the forest humus. Coho salmon leave the Pacific Ocean to return to their ancestral spawning grounds up several rivers in the Pacific Northwest. And a refreshing crispness fills the air, stimulating our appetites for more comforting and often heartier dishes.

Undisputedly, the most exciting fall harbinger is the arrival of the much loved Mountain Rose, that gorgeous red-fleshed apple that tastes just like a strawberry Jolly Rancher.

I set those scions, and for many a year made pilgrimage to the tree and opened the green fruits to be surprised again and again at the pink flesh ‘stained with red’ as the original The Fruit and Fruit Trees of America has it. Charles Downing, The Garden Lover, 1928

Portland Monthly wrote an interesting article called “The Curious Case of the Hidden Rose” in which they detailed the shared ancestry of three red-fleshed apple varieties that originated from a single tree.

Lucky Newell

In 1959, Lucky Newell bought an 80-acre ranch in Airlie, Oregon. One day he was riding his horse near a well and spotted a wild apple tree growing in the distance. He reached up and pulled a yellowish apple off a branch and took a bite. He was amazed by the red-fleshed fruit and commented that they were as red as his wife’s ruby red lips. Then rode off and never thought about them again. The apple tree remained unnoticed until the 1980s when Louis Kimzey rediscovered them.

Trellised Mountain Rose apples growing in the shadow of Mount Hood, photo by Francois de Melogue

Surprise Apples

The history goes back even further. The smallish, yellow-skinned apples were originally known as “Surprise Apples” for obvious reasons. They…

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Francois de Melogue
Heated
Writer for

My earliest attempt at cookery began with the filleting of my sister's goldfish at age 2 and cooking my pet rabbits by age 7. Life has been downhill ever since.