Granny smith Apple trees

All About Granny Smith Apples

It’s one of the most recognizable apples around thanks to its bright green skin, famously tart flavor, and tremendous versatility in the kitchen. But, what do we really know about Granny Smith apples? This post will answer just that by sharing all of the fun facts about your favorite green apple variety, Granny Smith.

Who is Granny Smith, anyway?

The story about how Granny Smith apples came to be is quite unique, and dates back to a 1924 article in Farmer and Settler that was based on interviews of farmers who knew the real Maria Ann (Granny) Smith. She was a British-Australian orchardist who farmed with her husband on 24 acres just outside of Sydney, Australia. The story goes that Granny Smith would often toss the remains of French crab apples (from Tasmania) among the ferns and creek on her property. In 1868, she noticed that the apples had seeded and began to work with a few of the chance seedling trees. The apple the chance seedling bore was unique, so Granny Smith took it upon herself to propagate the new apple and along the way, found it to be great for both snacking and cooking. She began selling her seedling at Sydney’s George Street market until her death in 1870. Her farm’s new owner, Edward Gallard, planted the apple extensively. He marketed it locally until it was widely adopted after winning the prize for best cooking apples at a horticultural show around 1890. Granny Smith quickly became a top variety in Australia because of its unique flavor and qualities, late harvest time, and great shelf life in storage and for exporting.

The high acid levels in Granny Smith is the secret behind it’s baking abilities.

More than a century after it received notoriety for being the “best cooking apple,” Granny Smith is still among the best apples to bake with. The apple is very acidic, which means they hold their shape well when placed in the oven at high temperatures. The tartness of Granny Smith also makes it a favorite in for baking recipes, especially apple pie.

Granny Smith is a high-antioxidant apple.

All apples contain high levels of antioxidants, which inhibit free radicals from causing irreversible damage to the body’s cells during a process called oxidation. Granny Smith is among several high-antioxidant apple variety, and contains the highest concentration of phenols. Additionally, recent research from Washington State University found Granny Smith apples to have more non-digestible compounds than other leading varieties, which could have positive effects for fighting obesity.

The legacy of Granny Smith lives on today.

Granny Smith is honored every year at the Granny Smith Festival in Eastwood, NSW in Australia. Her life and legacy is recognized alongside fireworks, a carnival, and a parade. Additionally, Granny Smith’s great-granddaughter, Edna, continued to praise Granny Smith apples until her passing. She lived to be 101 years old and attributed her long life to “good genes and lots of Granny Smith apples.”

Granny Smith grows best in warm climates where there is plenty of sunshine.

It’s no wonder why this apple variety grows so well in central Washington, as Granny Smith loves the sunshine! The leading apple growing region in the U.S. is home to long, warm summer days and cool nights that occasionally give Granny Smith a pink blush on her cheeks. The arid climate is the main reason why Stemilt is able to consistently grow crisp, vibrant, and flavorful Granny Smith apples year-after-year.

Remember the last time you had a great apple? A really juicy, crisp, maybe a tiny bit tart apple — something you loved all the way down to its (and your) core?

We bet it wasn’t a Red Delicious.

Kids (and adults) love apples, but the appeal of traditional favorites is changing.Getty Images

Red Delicious has been the most-grown apple in America for decades, but according to trade group the U.S. Apple Association, they have been unseeded — er, unseated — by Gala apples.

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“The rise in production of newer varieties of apples aimed at the fresh consumption domestic market has caused demand for Red Delicious to decline,” Mark Seetin, U.S. Apple director of regulatory and industry affairs said in a news release. “However, Red Delicious is important in the export market, where it makes up roughly half of our apple exports.”

Gala vs. Red Delicious apples. Similar in look but oh-so-different in taste.Getty Images

Originated in Iowa in the 1870s, Red Delicious have been America’s go-to fruit for decades. A Red Delicious looks the part, for one thing (imagine every cartoon drawing you’ve ever seen of a generic “apple,” including depictions in the Garden of Eden) and became a kind of American symbol, as Rowan Jacobsen noted in “Apples of Uncommon Character.”

Red became associated with all apples, and “we started eating with our eyes, not our mouths,” apple historian Tom Burford told The New York Times. He’s no fan of Red Delicious, and has called them “the largest compost-maker in the world.”

Alas, it’s taken a long while for critical mass to come to the overwhelming conclusion that most Red Delicious apples are mealy and rarely crisp. Plus, there are so many other interesting varieties to try, depending on your desire for tart-vs.-sweet, cooking-vs.-hand fruit.

Granny Smith apples are critical for pie.Getty Images

Even one of the biggest companies in the world, Apple, uses a McIntosh variety as its logo, and the Beatles used a Granny Smith for their Apple Records label.

Meanwhile, Galas represent our changing tastes in many ways. A cross between Kidd’s Orange Red and Golden Delicious varieties, the crisp, sweet fruit was created in New Zealand and named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. It migrated to the United States in the 1970s.

And having reached the top of the heap, Gala is poised to barrel on.

“It’s the beginning of the end,” said Buford. “How are you going to market a tasteless apple when the consumer has tasted so many good apples?”

Or, as Matt Damon said in “Good Will Hunting,” “How do you like them apples?”

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For those people such as New Yorkers who live near orchards far more interesting types can be found, but they are limited in supply and available only at specialty markets, at the Greenmarkets or at roadside stands in the upstate apple country.

Starting in July with the first harvest, there is a continually changing supply as the varieties come into season. As is often the case with fruit, the earliest varieties are not the best. They lack the proper texture and flavor balance. The best fruit comes with sunny, warm days and cool nights, just the kind of weather we are having now. Cold nights are essential to development of some of the later apples as well. This year’s local apple crop is expected to be ample and excellent.

New Yorkers can find Tydemans, Paulareds, Miltons and Red Gravensteins in the market now. Within the next three weeks there will be Macouns, which are among the very best for eating, all-purpose Cortlands and local Red Delicious, also an eating apple. Freshly picked Delicious apples are not mealy or overly sweet.

By the end of September the crisp-tart all-purpose Jonathans and Empires, which are eating apples, and the Golden Delicious, not to be confused with those from Washington State, will be in the market. The Empires, New York State’s answer to Vermont’s McIntosh, have gained popularity as an excellent eating apple. The beginning of October will bring the tart-crisp all-purpose Northern Spy and the tart-sweet all-purpose Russets. These are followed by the tart-dry all-purpose Mutsu, a Japanese apple; the semisweet all-purpose Stayman; the rich, spicy Winesap, an eating apple; the semisweet Rome, a baking apple, and the Newtown Pippin, used in cooking and baking. The season ends with the local Granny Smiths.

Apples can be stored in what is called controlled atmosphere, known in the produce trade as C.A. -an environment high in oxygen, which prolongs the life of the fruit. Delicious apples that are sold in the supermarket in the summer are stored this way.

In choosing apples, look for those that are firm to the touch and without bruises, soft spots or scars. When you take them home, store them in the refrigerator.

After eating apples out of hand, drinking cider, making pies and apple sauce, the cook begins to search for new recipes. Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, whose family has grown apples on an upstate farm since the early 19OO’s, has spent his life using apple products in cooking, often to the consternation of friends who turn up their noses at his heresies until they taste them: white clam sauce with apple cider; apple cider in tomato soup, pea soup and vegetable soup; chicken in the pot cooked with cider instead of water. Mr. Morgenthau also uses apples in more traditional ways. He bastes roast duck and roast turkey with cider, adds apples to a chopped herring salad. And, he says, ”the class way to make applesauce is to cook the apples in apple cider.”

There are a couple of different version of the story of how Granny Smith apples came about, but they all agree that they got their name from an Australian woman named Maria Anne Smith, who had had the nickname Granny Smith.

After her husband died, Maria Smith took over the farm and orchard that was the family’s main income.

The most common origin story of Granny Smith apples (Some folks just call them granny apples) is that, around 1868 in New South Wales, Mrs. Smith had dumped a crate of old rotten apples French Crab Apples from Tasmania in her garden and then later found an apple sapling growing there. The tree grew to produce green tart apples “that had never grown before.” They subsequently became famous not only in Australia but were shipped all over the world, including the U.S.

Some versions of the story add further details. For instance, Mrs. Smith, the daughter of transplanted convicts, was a midwife who had assisted in the birth of many babies, earning her the nickname Granny Smith. In other versions, she and her husband came to Australia already having three children but going on to have over a dozen more. Presumably, the many grandchildren that her children later gave her would have earned her the nickname “Granny,” but in some versions of the story she is also a midwife who helped with the birth of many children so that she is like their grandmother.

You may wonder why a known variety of apple, French Crab Apples, should give rise to a completely new and never before seen apple. This is actually common and is how new varieties of fruit, or plant crops are often born. Soil, climate, elevation, etc. can give rise to a fruit that was unexpected. And then, there is the matter of fertilization. Apple trees, for the most part, cannot fertilize themselves. Therefore, they must be fertilized by another tree. So, Granny Smith’s original tree would have produced apples that, quite frankly, you might never see by chance again. The seeds have their own unique gene variations and the tree that results from these seeds may produce apples that are inedible.

Therefore, if you took a seed from a Granny Smith apple and tried to plant it, hoping to get yourself a Granny Smith apple tree, the results may surprise you! Granny Smith apple trees all come from that original tree, and were produced by grafting. Unfortunately, planting apple trees is not as simple as dropping a seed in the ground.

Further details about Granny Smith Apple history can be read at www.AussieApples.com.au.

Other apple varieties for a Granny Smith fan

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Facts About Grany Smith Apple Trees

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A Granny Smith apple tree produces apples that are quite tart. Apples grown on a Granny Smith apple tree are different from most other types of apples because Granny Smith apples always stay green and do not change color to indicate ripening. Granny Smith apple trees are quite easy to grow and are not overly susceptible to disease or infestation.

History

The Granny Smith apple tree is native to Australia. The Granny Smith apple tree dates back to 1868 to a chance seedling that was discovered by a woman named Maria Ann Smith. This is the origin of the Granny Smith name. A chance seedling is a term that defines a plant species was discovered by chance. It is thought that the Granny Smith seed is a descendant of the European Wild Apple tree.

Uses of Apples

Granny Smith apples are considered all-purpose apples. They have an even green skin and have crisp and firm flesh. Granny Smith apples are eating apples as well as cooking and baking apples. Granny Smith apples can be made into applesauce, apple pies, and many other apple cobblers and cakes. Granny Smith apples are also desirable for their long shelf life. They will stay crisp for much longer than other varieties of apples.

Bearing Fruit

Granny Smith apple trees are not of the self pollinating variety. In order to grow Granny Smith apple trees, an additional apple tree of another kind must also be grown within close proximity to the Granny Smith tree to enable pollination and fruit production in the Granny Smith tree. Some recommended pollinator apple trees include Golden Delicious, Gala, and Fuji apple trees. A nearby pollinator tree that is fertile will enable the Granny Smith apple tree to bear Granny Smith apples.

Proper Care

Granny Smith apple trees can be successfully grown in zones six, seven, and eight. They must have at least six hours of sunlight each day. To encourage the most fruit production, a Granny Smith apple tree must be pruned regularly for proper branching. When the Granny Smith apple tree is pruned in this way, it will be healthier, will have stronger limbs, and will bear more fruit earlier in the season. Granny Smith apple trees that are pruned properly can live more than 50 years.

Establishment

The Granny Smith apple tree is able to grow in many different types of soil. These apple trees are considered one of the fastest growing apple trees. After the initial season for proper establishment of the tree, the apples from a Granny Smith apple tree can be harvested. The Granny Smith apples are usually ready to be picked by November and these apples will stay fresh and flavorful into the next spring.

Granny Smith facts for kids

Granny Smith

The Granny Smith is a tip-bearing apple cultivar, which originated in Australia in 1868. It is named after Maria Ann Smith, who propagated the cultivar from a chance seedling. The tree is thought to be a hybrid of Malus sylvestris, the European Wild Apple, with the domestic apple M. domestica as the polleniser. The fruit has hard, light green skin and a crisp, juicy flesh.

Granny Smith apples

They go from being completely green to turning yellow when overripe. The acidity mellows significantly on ripening, and it takes on a balanced flavour.

Though also consumed raw, it is one of the most popular cooking apples.

Maria Ann “Granny” Smith (1799–1870)

The Granny Smith cultivar originated in Eastwood, New South Wales, Australia (now a suburb of Sydney) in 1868. Its discoverer, Maria Ann Smith, had emigrated to the district from Beckley, East Sussex in 1839 with her husband Thomas. They purchased a small orchard in the area in 1855-1856 and began cultivating fruit, for which the area was a well known centre in colonial Australia. Smith had numerous children and was a prominent figure in the district, earning the nickname “Granny” Smith in her advanced years.

The first description of the origin of the Granny Smith apple was not published until 1924. In that year, Farmer and Settler published the account of a local historian who had interviewed two men who had known Smith. One of those interviewed recalled that in 1868 he (then twelve years old) and his father had been invited to Smith’s farm to inspect a chance seedling that had sprung near a creek. Smith had dumped there among the ferns the remains of French crab-apples that had been grown in Tasmania. Another story recounted that Smith had been testing French crab-apples for cooking, and throwing the apple cores out her window as she worked, found that the new cultivar sprang up underneath her kitchen windowsill. Whatever the case, Smith took it upon herself to propagate the new cultivar on her property, finding the apples good for cooking and for general consumption. Having “all the appearances of a cooking apple”, they were not tart but instead were “sweet and crisp to eat”. She took a stall at Sydney’s George Street market, where the apples stored “exceptionally well and became popular” and “once a week sold her produce there.”

Smith died only a couple of years after her discovery (in 1870), but her work had been noticed by other local planters. Edward Gallard was one such planter, who extensively planted Granny Smith trees on his property and bought the Smith farm when Thomas died in 1876. Gallard was successful in marketing the apple locally, but it did not receive widespread attention until 1890. In that year, it was exhibited as “Smith’s Seedling” at the Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show, and the following year it won the prize for cooking apples under the name “Granny Smith’s Seedling”. The apple was successful and the following year many were exhibiting Granny Smith apples at horticultural shows.

In 1895 the New South Wales Department of Agriculture recognised the cultivar and had begun growing the trees at the Government Experimental Station in Bathurst, New South Wales, recommending the gazette its properties as a late-picking cooking apple for potential export. Over the following years the government actively promoted the apple, leading to its widespread adoption. Its worldwide fame grew from the fact that it could be picked from March and stored until November. Enterprising fruit merchants in 1890s and 1900s experimented with methods to transport the apples overseas in cold storage. Because of its excellent shelf life the Granny Smith could be exported long distances and most times of the year, at a time when Australian food exports were growing dramatically on the back of international demand. Granny Smiths were exported in enormous quantities after the First World War, and by 1975, 40 percent of Australia’s apple crop was Granny Smith. By this time it was being grown intensely elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as in France and the United States. The advent of the Granny Smith apple is now celebrated annually in Eastwood with the Granny Smith Festival.

Properties

Apples are genetic hybrids that produce new genetic combinations in their seedlings. To preserve the exact genetic variation, grafting is the usual method of propagation (and cutting is sometimes used). All the Granny Smith apple trees grown today are clones from the original Smith tree in Sydney.

Granny Smith apples are light green in colour. They are popularly used in many apple dishes, such as apple pie, apple cobbler, apple crumble, and apple cake. They are also commonly eaten raw as table apples, and at least one company (Woodchuck Hard Cider) makes Granny Smith varietal cider.

It is moderately susceptible to fire blight and is highly prone to scab, powdery mildew, and cedar apple rust.

Granny Smith is much more easily preserved in storage than other apples, a factor which has greatly contributed to its success in export markets. Its long storage life has been attributed to its fairly low levels of ethylene production, and in the right conditions Granny Smiths can be stored without loss of quality for as long as a year. This cultivar needs fewer winter chill hours and a longer season to mature the fruit, so it is favoured for the milder areas of the apple growing regions. However, they are susceptible to superficial scald and bitter pit. Superficial scald may be controlled by treatment with diphenylamine before storage. It can also be controlled with low-oxygen storage. Pit can be controlled with calcium sprays during the growing season and with postharvest calcium dips.

Health benefits

Granny Smith is one of several apple cultivars that are high in antioxidant activity, and they have the highest concentration of phenols amongst the apple breeds. Some sources recommend Granny Smiths (among other apples) as a particularly efficient source of antioxidants, particularly the flavonoids cyanidin and epicatechin, especially if eaten with the skin intact. Granny Smiths are also naturally low in calories and high in dietary fiber and potassium, making them commonly recommended as a component of healthy and weight-loss diets.

According to the US Apple Association website, it is one of the fifteen most popular apple cultivars in the United States.

Cultural references

In 1968 the pop/rock band The Beatles used an image of a Granny Smith apple as the logo for their corporation, Apple Corps Limited. For their record label, Apple Records, one side of vinyl albums featured the exterior of the fruit whilst the other side of the recording featured a cross-section of the apple.

Yoko Ono’s 1966 artwork Apple used a Granny Smith apple in its 2015 recreation at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. John Lennon had taken a bite from the apple on display in its 1966 incarnation at the Indica Gallery in London.

In the 1980s, Anchorage, Alaska started to be referred to as the “Green Apple of the Arctic”, thanks to the beautification campaign that had taken place.

In 2013 the United States Postal Service issued a set of four 33¢ stamps commemorating apples, including the Granny Smith as well as Baldwin, Golden Delicious, and Northern Spy.

Apple cultivars
Dessert and dual
purpose apples

Adams Pearmain • Alkmene • Ambrosia • Antonovka • Arlet • Ariane • Arkansas Black • Ashmead’s Kernel • Aurora Golden Gala • Baldwin • Ben Davis • Blenheim Orange • Beauty of Bath • Belle de Boskoop • Bohemia • Braeburn • Brina • Cameo • Clivia • Cornish Gilliflower • Cortland • Cox’s Orange Pippin • Cripps Pink (Pink Lady) • Delbarestivale® delcorf • Delbardivine® delfloga • Discovery • Ecolette • Egremont Russet • Elstar • Empire • Esopus Spitzenburg • Fuji • Gala • Ginger Gold • Golden Orange • Golden Delicious • Granny Smith • Gravenstein • Grimes Golden • Haralson • Honeycrisp • Idared • James Grieve • Jazz • Jersey Black • Jonagold • Jonathan • Junaluska • Karmijn de Sonnaville • Knobbed Russet • Liberty • Macoun • McIntosh • Mutsu • Newtown Pippin • Nickajack • Nicola • Paula Red • Pink Pearl • Pinova • Rajka • Ralls Genet • Rambo • Red Delicious • Rhode Island Greening • Ribston Pippin • Rome • Roxbury Russet • Rubens (Civni) • Santana • Saturn • Sekai Ichi • Spartan • Stayman • Sturmer Pippin • Summerfree • Taliaferro • Topaz • Worcester Pearmain • York Imperial • Zestar

Cooking apples

Bramley • Calville Blanc d’hiver • Chelmsford Wonder • Flower of Kent • Golden Noble • Norfolk Biffin • Northern Spy

Cider apples

Brown Snout • Dabinett • Foxwhelp • Harrison Cider Apple • Kingston Black • Redstreak • Styre

Images for kids

  • ‘Granny Smith’ apples

  • Granny Smith apples.

  • Maria Ann “Granny” Smith (1799–1870)

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