Granny Smith apples are the most popular green apple variety in the world. Think of the flavor of fall at an apple orchard. There’s a good chance you just thought of a tangy green apple coated with caramel. This variety is the perfect apple to use for all of your favorite apple treats, from caramel apples to apple pie. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about Granny Smith apples.
Where Did Granny Smith Apples Come From?
It might seem like Granny Smith apples have been around forever. When you think of a green apple, the classic taste and color of this variety is probably what comes to mind. However, the Granny Smith variety wasn’t introduced to the United States until the 1970s.
Believe it or not, Granny Smith apples were named after a real-life Granny Smith. Maria Smith lived in Australia in the late 1860s. An apple seedling sprouted from the pile where she disposed of the crab apples she used for baking. She’d never seen a seedling like this one, so she let it keep growing.
Once the Granny Smith seedling bore apples, the flavor and color impressed her. She began selling the seeds to other local farmers. The apples became popular in Australia over the next fifty years and were introduced to the United Kingdom in the early 1930s. The apple was easy to grow, stored well, and could be used for almost anything.
In the 1970s, Granny Smith apples reached the United States and immediately became just as popular as it had been in Australia. They’re one of the top 10 most popular apple varieties in the U.S. Sour apple enthusiasts love the tart, bright flavor of this apple. Bakers everywhere regard this apple as the perfect fruit for fall baking.
What do Granny Smith Apples Taste Like?
Granny Smith apples are famous for their sour green apple flavor. They have a strong tart flavor and have a bright acidic tang. These apples are incredibly crisp, firm, and juicy.
This variety has thick green skin that may have a faint yellow or pink blush. The apples tend to be medium-sized with firm, white flesh. These characteristics mean Granny Smith apples store very well as they do not bruise easily and hold their texture even when off the tree.
This variety always has a very tart and sharp flavor, balanced with just enough sweetness. The bright sour-apple flavor makes this variety a good choice for pairing with creamy cheeses or a sugary-sweet fruit like a mango. For the perfect apple dessert, dip Granny Smith apples in caramel for a delicious sweet-and-tart treat.
How to Use Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith apples are known as one of the best apples for baking. They hold their shape better than almost any other variety. Baking even plays a role in the discovery of this variety. They grew from a compost pile where Maria Smith threw the cores of baking apples.
This variety is also a favorite for juicing and making cider. The high juice content and acidity of these apples make the perfect green apple juice. Granny Smith apple juice naturally keeps its color (avoids browning) due to the high acid content. If you enjoy tart juice, you won’t want to miss the chance to make juice from Granny Smith apples.
Apples have starch in them that breaks down as they are baked into sugars. Some apples, such as McIntosh or Gala, become soft and sugary-sweet when baked. Granny Smith apples are naturally very tart and acidic. While they become slightly more sweet as they are baked, they also keep a stable shape and that delicious fresh apple tartness.
The beloved tart flavor of this variety is delicious with the sweetness of baked goods. If you have Granny Smith apples around, try baking them into an apple crisp or apple cobbler. The sweetness of the topping will be a perfect pair with the sour green apple flavor.
Granny Smith apples are the right variety to use in apple breads or cakes. If you bake a soft and juicy variety into a cake, it will make the end product soggy and mushy – nobody wants that. Granny Smith apples won’t weigh down a cake or bread like a softer variety such as McIntosh would.
When you’re baking with Granny Smith apples, do consider peeling the fruit before throwing them in a pie or cake. It’s true that apple peels contain most of the nutrients and vitamins in an apple. However, Granny Smith peels are very thick and sour – not quite what you want in your apple crisp.
If you don’t have Granny Smith apples around, there are a few varieties that work as a substitute. Pink Lady apples, Cortland apples, and Fuji apples are all dense varieties that can be a substitute for Granny Smith. Even so, nothing can quite beat a pie made from freshly-picked Granny Smith!
Next time you pick up Granny Smith apples from your local orchard or grocery store, try one of these recipes:
- Granny Smith Apple Crisp
- Mini Apple Fritters with Granny Smith Apples
- Apple Upside Down Cake
- Granny Smith Apple Juice
- Cinnamon Apple Pie Bread
- Dehydrated Granny Smith Apples
- Best Southern Fried Apples
- Easy Apple Strudel
- Caramel Apples
Where to Get Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith apples grow best in warm climates with a long ripening season. As you may remember,the apples originated in Australia so it makes sense that they do best in warm, sunny areas. You’ll find them growing in U. S. zones 6-8. In the U.S. they tend to ripen around October. In climates with very mild winters they can be picked as late as January or February.
If you’re picking your own Granny Smith apples, you’ve probably realized that it can be difficult to tell when a green apple is ripe. You’ll know Granny Smith apples are ripe if they have a pink or yellow blush and are roughly the size of your fist. If the apples just aren’t coming off the tree, they’re probably not ripe. You shouldn’t have to jerk a ripe apple off the tree with all your might.
Even if you accidentally pick apples that are a little underripe, don’t worry. It’s true that an underripe Granny Smith can be too sour for even green apple lovers. To ripen your apples quickly, put them in a paper bag in a warm area such as your kitchen with a banana or another ripe apple. The ethylene gas from the other fruit will encourage your apple to ripen.
No matter where you live, there’s a good chance Granny Smith apple are at your local grocery store. These apples store very well due to their thick skin and high acid content, so they will taste fresh year-round. Otherwise, order them online for a delicious treat anytime. Granny Smith apples will store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
How to Grow Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith apples are a great addition to your home orchard. The tree will keep producing for decades, and it’s a beautiful addition to your yard. Be sure you live in a warm enough climate: Granny Smith apples grown best in U.S. zones 6 through 8 and only require 400 chill hours.
A mature Granny Smith tree will grow 12 to 16 feet tall. Plant your Granny Smith in well-draining soil somewhere the entire mature tree will get sun for at least 6 hours a day. The tree will take 3-5 years to fully mature and bear fruit.
Cross-pollinating trees are necessary for a Granny Smith tree to bear fruit. Plant another apple variety such as Golden Delicious, crabapples, or almost any other related apple nearby. Prune the trees when they’re young to develop a sturdy base, and then once or twice a year as necessary once they are mature.
There are several diseases which affect Granny Smith trees. Apple scab, root fungus, and fire blight are all common diseases for Granny Smith apple trees. Most of these diseases can be prevented by planting the tree in a proper location and using fungicides as needed.
Fun Facts about Granny Smith Apples
While it might not be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, Granny Smith apples are packed with antioxidants. These apples have more polyphenols than any other apple variety. Polyphenols are plant compounds full of antioxidants. They’re linked to lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
The Granny Smith apple is commemorated each year in its country of origin. The Granny Smith festival is one of Sydney, Australia’s largest festivals. This festival began in 1985 to commemorate Maria Smith. Nearly 100,000 people a year come out to join in the festivities.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab a few Granny Smith apples. That green apple flavor is sure to bring back memories. From baking in a cake to making into apple juice, this variety is certainly a winner.