Red apples are probably the first thing you think of when someone asks you ‘quick, what’s something red ?’.
That really says a lot about how common red apples are in our world, from what types are being sold to what type grow in someone’s garden.
Apples have come to be known as being ‘red, of course’ and no one questions it.
But we should question it. Why are apples red ? It may sound like a silly, childish question but there’s genuine curiosity behind it.
This is what we’ve set out to find out today, and hopefully you’ll find this interesting.
So why are apples red ?
Apples are red for two important reasons.
The first is a survival reason, meaning apples need to be noticed in the wild by animals, in order to be eaten and the seeds propagated.
The second is a technical reason, that helps the first. The pigment that gives apples their red color is called anthocyanin.
This pigment develops through naturally occurring sugars and sunlight, and is also a sign of really flavorful apples.
Why is apple-flavored food color green?
The apple-flavored food color is green, and also, the apple juice that is not all-natural is green due to marketing reasons more than anything else.
Even if many apples are red or other colors than green, when we imagine a perfect apple, it will be green. So there is no real reason for it to be green since it is a food coloring, it can be any color without extra effort.
Granny smith apples are like a staple and a symbol for how apples look in the U.S. this may not be true everywhere, but in the U.S., it is, and the U.S. has a large influence worldwide.
Red apples pop against green leaves
Now let’s explain the ‘apples need to be red’ thing.
The color red, as opposed to other colors in the wild, really stands out. You will notice it right away, since the vast majority of plants are green.
They are green because they need to photosynthesize, like the leaves on trees or on flowers.
The brightly colored plants are either a warning or a ‘hey, check me out !’ signal.
In the case of apples, their bright color helps them get noticed and thus be eaten by wandering animals.
The seeds will withstand the stomach acid and will be then passed out, via excrement.
Does that help with anything ? It definitely does, because the excrement will fertilize the apple seeds. This means they can and will grow into big, fruitful trees that will propagate the species.
It so happens that the red apples are the most appealing to most humans, because we’ve made it a point to cultivate mostly red apples.
In fact, we’ve made it a point to cultivate a whole bunch of fruit and vegetables over time.
Read Also:Can You Freeze Apples ?
Anthocyanins are the main culprit
Okay, now let’s get a bit more technical. The reason apples are red is due to the pigment called anthocyanin.
This pigment may sound familiar, because part of is is ‘cyan’ which is a shade of blue used in printers.
Why is this relevant ? Well, the great thing about anthocyanin is that is ranges from red to blue, going through purple and black. So it’s probably the most versatile pigment out there.
You will find anthocyanin in red cabbage, in blueberries, in mulberries, and purple carrots as well.
As a fun sidenote, red from anthocyanin are always bluish reds, or cool toned reds.
The red in a tomato or pepper is always a warm toned red, because the pigment responsible is lycopene, which is a type or carotenoid. And yes, it does have to do with carrots and the yellow-orange-red pallete.
Anthocyanins need sugars to develop
In order to the red color to develop, anthocyanin needs some help. That help is in the form of direct sunlight, and optimal temperature.
There are apple cultivars that turn bright red, like Red Delicious, and there are cultivars that only blush red like the Pink Lady, and then there are varieties that are striped red like Honeycrisp.
All of those apple cultivars contain anthocyanins but the genetic makeup of each of them distributes the pigment differently. Apple biology is really tricky.
Direct sunlight and temperature affect sugars
In short, as the apples progress form tiny, developing fruit to full-on apples, they develop sugars in their structure, and the anthocyanins need this.
The more natural sugars present in the apple, the easier the pigment will develop.
Direct sunlight, or even reflected sunlight, is a good way to develop the sugars in apples.
This is why towards the end of the season apple trees are pruned of the topmost foliage, to let the sun shine on the apples.
Or, they will sometimes place reflective surfaces under the trees, to bounce the light under the apples.
Temperature plays am important role in apple color development, but each cultivar is different. More research is needed in this area, but it appears cool night with warm days are a great combination.
Loaded trees produce poor, bland apples
You might think that more apples on a tree mean more apples for you to eat. And you’d be right.
The problem is that the tree can only produce so much sugar, and lots of apples mean less sugar for each apple.
This leads to bland or less sweet apples, which will also not look as nice and red as a less loaded tree.
A similar problem happens to most fruit-bearing trees, including coffee trees.
Mankind has been selectively breeding apples for centuries
Alright, now we know apples are red because they need to be seen, so the seed can pe propagated.
They can be red due to anthocyanin, which is responsible for the red to blue spectrum.
But why are most apples red ? Well, the biggest reason is that red apples are often the sweetest, as explained by the ‘anthocyanins need sugars to develop’ part.
Still, why do we favor red apples over anything else ?
There was a research claiming that we’re genetically wired to consider red – orange-yellow foods are the most appetizing.
You can see this with foods like pasta, pizza, roasts, fries, and all the best foods you can think of.
So, red apples because the most sought after apple cultivar. Humans have been eating apples for thousands of years, but we’ve only started breeding them into different types in the past couple of centuries.
Red apples were favored, and now when you look at a cultivar list the vast majority is red or at least striped or blushing red.
Read Also:Should You Refrigerate Apples?
Other apple types are green , yellow, or mixed
There are other apple types, of course. One of the most famous types that isn’t red is the Granny Smith apple, bright green with a nice crispy-tart finish.
Another is the Golden delicious, nicely yellow with a very sweet and mellow flavor.
As you can see, not only red apples are sweet apples. But the majority of them are red.