McIntosh Red Apple

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

“McIntosh Red” apple watercolour by Faith Fyles for the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario, 1920s. Source: Ingenium 1987.2334

The McIntosh Red apple is a Canadian treat!

The McIntosh Red is a world-famous apple that was discovered in Ontario in 1811. John McIntosh, a settler from New York, found apple-tree seedlings as he cleared brush on his Dundela farm, near Morrisburg on the St Lawrence River. McIntosh transplanted the trees and one bore delicious fruit: a deep-red apple with tart flavour and tender white flesh. Over the decades, the McIntosh family propagated their unique apple by grafting grafted scions, or cuttings, to other fruit trees in their orchard. Allan McIntosh, John’s son, continued this work. He established a McIntosh Red nursery in 1870 and sold trees to other orchardists. By the early 1900s, the McIntosh Red was popular across North America. Apple breeders, such as W. T. Macoun at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) in Ottawa, used the hardy McIntosh Red to create new varieties including Lobo, Cortland, Empire, and Spartan. CEF botanist and artist Faith Fyles recorded some of this breeding work in beautiful watercolours. And while new apple varieties like Gala and Honeycrisp have challenged the McIntosh Red’s supremacy, the McIntosh apple remains a favourite for cooking and for eating fresh.

The McIntosh Red inspired the name of the Macintosh computer. Jef Raskin, an Apple engineer, called the McIntosh “my favourite kind of eatin’ apple.”

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