The Granny Smith Apple (Malus domestica) may just be one of Australia’s luckiest discoveries
Who is Granny Smith?
The Granny Smith apple was in fact ‘invented’ (per chance) by Granny Smith. Granny Smith (or Maria Ann Smith – but we can all call her Granny) was an English migrant who arrived in Australia in 1830. Granny Smith discarded some rotten Tasmanian French Crab apples into a creek near her home in Ryde (Sydney) in 1868, not to know that the seeds would germinate and become one of the most popular apples worldwide (not such a bad apple afterall?). The seeds are believed to have crossed with the Cleopatra to produce the unique fruit. After literally stumbling upon the new variety, Granny Smiths apple took off, being categorised as Australias best cooking apple. It was taken to be grown at the Bathurst Orchard Experiment Farm, and demand grew. By 1918 the apples were being sold to the US Army, and by the 1960s achieved worldwide acclaim for not only the flavour but the long storage capacity.
What’s so special about the Granny Smith?
Granny Smith apples are chefs go-to apple for cooking. If you eat apple pie, sauce or tarts, chances are you’re eating a Granny Smith. The high acid content stops the fruit turning brown as quickly after cutting, and the firm flesh maintains shape when cooked rather than turning to mush.
The apple is a grass green colour when ripe, which warms to a blush as it continues to ripen. A Granny Smith has a tangy and tart flavour, in comparison to other sweeter varieties like the Red Delicious. For those with more of a sweet tooth, cooking the apple caramelises the sugars into a richer flavour. The tartness also eases as the fruit continues to ripen.
Compared to other varieties, Granny Smiths are particularly high in antioxidants. The average Granny Smith contains around 80 calories (all supplied by carbohydrates), and gives you 20% of your daily vitamin C requirements, and 2% of Vitamin A, calcium and iron. You know what they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
How did it develop?
The Granny Smith is said to have formed as a hybrid from Tasmanian French Crab apples (Malus family) and the Cleopatra. As a hybrid mutation, a Granny Smiths seeds will be different from its parents, forming the new variety. So, every Granny Smith apple all over the world comes from Granny Smiths very own backyard! I guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Cross-pollination requires the transfer of pollen from one varieties flowers to another. A pollinator, such as bees or insects, carries the pollen from the polliniser, a compatible variety of apple as they scourge for nectar. You can think of cross-pollination in much the same way as human reproduction. Flowers have both male and female reproductive organs. The female reproductive organ is called the pistil, and is the single thin formation growing from the flowers centre. This includes the stigma at the end which receives pollen, the ovary which produces the seed and the connecting style. The male reproductive organ, the stamen, includes the anther where pollen is dispensed. Hybridising creates new varieties by taking the pollen of one plant and fertilising it on another. We call these parent plants the mother (seed parent) and the father (pollen parent). The hybrid will contain characteristics of both the mother and the father, but is not recognisable as either species.
What are growing requirements?
Granny Smiths tougher skin means they’re available all year round! Harvested early in the season (March) makes for a great cooking apple, whilst later harvests (May) produces a sweet and juicy eating apple. They can be refrigerated for several months, or kept in cold storage (1C) for up to one year! The time taken for a tree to bear fruit depends on the rootstock, but is usually 2-3 years after planting.
Granny Smiths aren’t particularly fussy for temperature, compared to other varieties. It’ll grow in most temperature ranges, still needing a slight winter chill (like most apples do). The preferred climate is cool or warm temperate zone. The Granny Smith is self-pollinating, although cross-pollinating is often used for higher yields.
The Granny Smith Today!
The Granny Smith is now one of Australia’s most popular apple varieties. It is also grown globally – from New Zealand to Europe, South America and the US.