A telltale sign that fall has officially arrived is the incredible abundance of delicious apples filling crates at farmers markets everywhere… shiny piles of Ginger Gold, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and, of course, the tart and crisp Granny Smith. It got us thinking… is there a real Granny behind the Granny Smith apple? The answer is a resounding YES, and it’s a pretty cool story.
Maria Ann Sherwood was born into a farming family in England in 1799. Spending her youth on the family farm was the catalyst for Maria’s interest in studying agriculture. At nineteen, she married a man named Thomas Smith, who was also a farm laborer, and the pair went on to manage a farm in East Sussex, while also beginning a family of their own.
In 1838, government officials were recruiting people with agricultural backgrounds who possessed the skill set to help develop farms in Australia. Along with several other families from the area, the Smiths immigrated to Sydney, Australia.
For the next fifteen plus years, the Smiths honed their skills while working on fruit orchards in their new country, and in 1856, they bought their own lot of land and began their own orchard.
As the story goes, in 1868, Maria Ann, then 69 years old and a Granny, found an apple seedling growing by a creek on her property. She believed that the seedling had grown from French crab apples, and she began to cultivate a new apple tree (it is believed to have been cultivated with a domestic variety), which we know today as “Granny Smith”. Another local farmer, Edward Gallard, developed a large crop of Maria Ann’s “Granny Smith” apples from cuttings of that first tree.
The apples became widely popular in Australia and New Zealand. Displayed at the Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show in 1891, “Smith’s seedling” won the prize for best cooking-apple. In 1895, Granny Smith apples were being produced at the Government Experimental Station in New South Wales on a large scale. Soon after, they were included on the list of fruits suitable for export by the Department of Agriculture. The apples were introduced to Great Britain in 1935 and are considered relative newcomers to the U.S., having only been introduced here in 1972.
Unfortunately, Granny Smith never saw her apples gain international recognition. She died in 1870, just two years after discovering the apple seedling on her property. Although the apples were sustained and propagated by local orchardists, it is Granny Smith who will be remembered as the woman who discovered one of the most well-known and beloved green apples.
Did You Know?
There are 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States, and 7,500 throughout the world.
Granny Smith’s great-granddaughter, Edna Spurway, lived to be 101 and attributed her long life to “lots of apples.”
Granny Smiths contain a higher concentration of antioxidants and dietary fiber than most other apples.
Granny Smith apple trees are one of the fastest growing apple trees and can live for over fifty years.
Because of their high acidity, Granny Smith apples hold their shape better when they are cooked, which is why they are a favorite for baking.