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It’s as American as the Australian Granny Smith apple pie

Nothing is more American than apple pie. Right? Well, it depends on what kind of apples are used to bake the pie. One of the most popular is the Granny Smith apple, which is grown in Washington State but actually originated in Australia.

That’s right, the Granny Smith apple gets its name from Maria Ann Smith, the grandmother who first cultivated it around 1865 in Eastwood, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

Maria Ann and her husband, Thomas, like many of their neighbors, grew apples on their 24-acre farm. It seems that Maria Ann was in the habit of throwing away her garbage down by a creek where the local raccoons usually came to eat and drink. One day she saw a little apple seedling growing up through the pile of garbage. Thinking that the tree would provide shade for the raccoons, she began to nurture it. Eight years later, the tree bore fruit of a variety that had never been seen before -- a large, juicy green apple with a tart flavor and a crisp texture.

Maria Ann Smith died on March 9, 1870, unaware that her apple would become one of the most popular varieties in the world. Her husband died six years later. Their neighbors continued to cultivate her apple, and in the 1891 Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show, “Granny Smith's seedlings” took the prize for cooking apples. By the next year, many growers were entering “Granny Smith's” in similar competitions. The Granny Smith apple wasn’t introduced into the United States until 1972.

Today, visitors can still see the headstone of Maria Ann and Thomas Smith where it stands in the churchyard of St. Anne’s cemetery, Ryde. Part of the southern boundary of their farm is now the Granny Smith Memorial Park. There’s even an annual Granny Smith Festival in Eastwood, which draws almost 100,000 people each October. Festival highlights include the firewords display and Grand Parade down Rowe Street, led by the Eastwood Mounted Police. The festival also features live entertainment, rides, food stalls and associated community events.

Granny Smith apples have become one of the most popular apples in the world largely because of their versitility. They can be used for not only apple pie, but also for cooking just about everything from cakes to soup and sauces. They’re great in salads because after they’re cut up the slices don’t turn brown as fast as other varieties. They also go well as garnishes with white meats such as pork and chicken, and they freeze easily. And on top of all that, they also tase good right off the tree!

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