National Geographic News
Picture of different apple varieties
Photo illustration by REBECCA HALE


National Geographic

Published April 15, 2014

You might say the apple fell from grace in the 1920s and '30s with the advent of refrigerated long-distance shipping.

Thanks to supermarket Darwinism, thousands of heirloom varieties, like many of those pictured here, went commercially extinct. Produce bins featured Delicious, Jonathan, and Rome—selected for durability and beauty, but boring in taste.

"People switched off their tastebuds," says Diane Miller, an apple geneticist at Ohio State University. Apple consciousness-raising, says Miller, came with the release of the aptly named Honeycrisp hybrid in 1991.

Food Shorts: Part 1

Now breeders create dozens of flavorful new hybrids a year and heirlooms are back in style.

RELATED: "Apples of Eden: Saving the Wild Ancestor of Modern Apples"

Find this month's story from the National Geographic Future of Food series at


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