Granny Smith apples are the most recognizable of all varieties given their definitive green color. They are also probably the most popular cooking apple. Eaten raw, they are a crisp hard apple with a very sharp, acidic taste. However, served slightly chilled they are very refreshing, and work well in salads.
In honor of their popularity, the Granny Smith Apple was one of the four varieties the United States Postal Service selected for a stamp in 2013. As noted on the USPS website, people have been cultivating apples since the Stone Age, however the Granny Smith variety is not that old. It was a chance discovery in 1868. Apple trees grown from seedling apples are genetically variable. They are usually poor in quality. But sometimes a desirable new variety emerges. That was the case for this peculiar green apple. Thereafter the only way to preserve the exact genetic variation was through grafting or using cuttings. Today all Granny Smith apple trees are clones from the original chance discovery. The apple is named after its discoverer, Maria Ann Smith, nicknamed “Granny” by the locals. She had emigrated to Australia near what is now Sydney from Beckley, East Sussex England in 1839 with her husband and purchased a small orchard in the area in about 1850.
The stories of the tree’s discovery have varied over the years, but generally involve the seedling having sprouted from a dumping area where apples and apple cores were discarded as she experimented with using crab apples for cooking. Maria Ann Smith died in 1870, but other local planters began growing her trees. In 1891, it won the prize for cooking apples at the Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show under the name “Granny Smith’s Seedling. From there its popularity took off.