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.