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Thick skin, leathery texture, meaty fruit, green color, tart flavor—Yes, it’s the Granny Smith apple, only appearing in American supermarkets beginning in the 1970s. The experience of crunching into this apple finds it in many shopping bags, the world over. Lowest in sugar of all the apples, it requires a cultivated taste to fully appreciate its gift. Once mastered, green apples grace pies, crisps, salads, sorbets, rolls, juice, dumplings and so much more, dependent upon the imagination of cooks.

But there’s another story about the Granny Smith apple that few know in our country. There really was such a Granny: her name was Maria Ann Sherwood Smith (1799 – 1870), an Australian orchardist who worked in fruit orchards, a trade she, her husband, and five children brought with them from economically strapped Sussex, England in 1839. A combination of hard work, study, camaraderie with other orchardists adjacent to their twenty-four acres, and their children’s willingness to learn the trade led to the Smiths’ simple prosperity.

Pie-baking was another skill that Granny excelled in, often taking home prizes from local fairs. When not working in the orchards, she could be seen by the kitchen window, tossing out seeds and stems from the fruit she was preparing for one of her concoctions. A twenty-five-foot creek close to their farm caught many of the scraps—site for their composting.

One morning in 1868, her practiced eye caught what appeared to be an unfamiliar seedling with green fruit growing near the creek; it resembled the crossing of a French crab-apple tree and an apple tree: the remarkable outcome of the scraps of her compost.

Maria Ann Smith was already a loving granny before her discovery of the green apple tree, so its naming after her was a given. Try one and learn to enjoy it. 

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