A fruitful visit to Madison County's East Peru, home of the original Red Delicious apple

February 2, 2018

When you think about Madison County, there are probably two things that immediately come to mind. First, you probably think about Covered Bridges - as in the Bridges of Madison County. Secondly, you might think about John Wayne - as he was born in Madison County and Winterset has a couple of sites, including a home and museum, that are available to tour.

 

But maybe you need to add a third thing to the list - how about the red delicious apple?

 

Last weekend, as I was out and about in southern Madison County, I visited the tiny town of East Peru. According to the most recent census data, the population is about 125 people. There is no "West Peru" but there is an unincorporated area next door known simply as "Peru" or "Old Peru".

 

Before rolling into town, I have to admit that I did not know that East Peru was the birthplace of the red delicious apple. Red delicious varieties are a staple of nearly any grocery store apple selection and are certainly grown at numerous orchards around the country and world.

 

But...before those apples got to Hy-Vee, their ancestor was growing in Madison County, Iowa.

 

The "welcome to" sign on along the blacktop that runs through town does a good job advertising their proud bit of history.

WHO-TV, an NBC affiliate television station in Des Moines, has a story that is a couple years old. The Iowa Backroads website has a bit more history about the farmer and the contest that lead to all of this coming about. I would also recommend checking out this brief account from Roadside America, which notes that the original tree was a casualty of a storm in the 1940's but that a new tree grew from the stump. They also have a photo of an engraved boulder that notes the history. Apparently the boulder is actually in or near Winterset?

 

Elsewhere in modern day East Peru, there are a few streets with houses and and a few other buildings in town, including this beautiful old church, as well as a park.

 

 

 

 

A resident was offering honey for sale and appeared to have a number of what appears to be apiaries on their lot.

Do you know someone from East Peru that can provide a bit more detail about the history of the Red Delicious apple? I'd love to learn more. These bits of Iowa history trivia are interesting to me.

 

As always, I welcome hearing from you and enjoy receiving your suggestions of places to visit in Madison County or in any of the other 98 counties. Please drop me a note through my website.

 

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