Red color of two strains of `Delicious' apples was increased (25%) by a 10-day delay beyond recommended harvest date for long-term controlled atmosphere (CA) storage. Soluble solids content (SSC) and size also increased, but, depending on strain, up to 12% of firmness was lost at harvest with a 10-day delay. In 2 of 3 years, firmness values in all strains were 73 N or greater, and these fruit lost little firmness during 9 months of CA storage. Soft fruit (<63 N) at harvest resulted in unacceptable firmness after storage, regardless of harvest time or strain of `Delicious'. Immediate (<24 h) establishment of CA conditions resulted in good-quality fruit after storage. Quality loss was evident after a 5-day delay in atmosphere establishment, with no further loss after a 10-day delay. `Oregon Spur' apples had the best red color regardless of harvest. Sensory panel profiles were unable to distinguish among strains, harvest dates, or delays in time of atmosphere establishment. Caution should be exercised when initiating new harvest or storage procedures because growing conditions can vary from one location to another.