Granny Smith apples and the magic of compost
With autumn in the air, apples become abundant - a great time to support ontario’s fresh produce. The origin of apple brand names often can be intriguing. For instance, if you thought that ‘Granny Smith apple’ was a name fabricated for marketing purposes, you’d be interested to learn that it was named after a real Granny Smith.
born into a farming family in England in 1799, maria ann Sherwood became interested in agriculture. at age 19 she married thomas Smith who also laboured on farms. together, they raised a family in beckley. in 1838, those with agricultural backgrounds were recruited to australia to work the farms and teach their skills. as maria ann particularly enjoyed raising seedling apple trees, the couple eventually purchased their own land to start an apple orchard. it wasn’t until 1868, when maria ann was 69 years old, that she discovered a new seedling bearing green-coloured apples where she had tossed French crab apple peelings.
her story is an amazing testimony to the magic of compost. When maria ann ‘Granny’ Smith cooked French crab apples, she would discard the cores into her compost pile behind her farmhouse. it was there that she discovered a seedling unlike any other. Smith, delighted with this new green apple’s tart flavour and versatility, decided to cultivate the tree herself. Edward Gallard, a local orchardist, also developed the trees from cuttings taken from the original tree and continued growing Granny Smith apples until his death in 1914.
Granny Smith apples became popular in australia and new Zealand, and were displayed in 1891 at agricultural and horticultural shows where ‘Smith’s seedling’ won the prize for the best cooking apple. after being added to the list of fruits suitable for export, they were introduced to Great britain in 1935 and the u.s. in 1972. Sadly, Granny Smith passed away in 1870 before seeing her apples gain commercial recognition.
Granny Smith apple facts:
- Granny Smith apples contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than most other apple brands. they also have 20% of the recommended daily vitamin C dosage, and high levels of vitamin a.
- due to a high acidity level when cooked, Granny Smith apples hold their shape better than most other apples.
- once cut open, they tend to retain their white colour longer.
- under ideal conditions and care, Granny Smith apple trees can live for more than 50 years. they are also one of the fastest growing apple trees.
- Their ideal storage condition is a cold refrigerator.
- Edna Spurway, Granny Smith’s great-granddaughter, survived to be 101. She attributed her health to eating lots of apples.
- Every year in ryde, new South Wales, a Granny Smith Festival celebrates maria ann Smith’s life and legacy.
With a compost heap in your backyard, you too have the opportunity to watch seedlings sprout. Compost feeds the beneficial soil microbes, which decompose organic materials such as apple peelings and dry leaves. rich soil will help your plants thrive. perhaps one day a seedling of yours will become the ‘core’ of a successful and worldwide ‘apeeling’ new food.
larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. Visit, www. castlecompost.com .
Granny Smith apples first grew out of a compost pile. They made great apple pies.