Granny Smith Apples: An All-Round Old Favourite Tart Baking Apple Variety

The queen of sour apples, Granny Smith’s tart flavour and bright green peel is a supermarket mainstay. But there’s more to this classic beauty than meets the eye!

Granny Smith apples are a popular tart variety of apple with bright green skin and a distinct sour taste. Discovered in 1800’s Australia, this beloved cultivar is eaten fresh and is also popular in baking, making it a wonderful all-purpose apple.

Let’s dig into what makes these yummy apples so popular. Read on to learn all about Granny Smith apples!

green granny smiths by red apples

Origins Of The Granny Smith

Granny Smith apples were discovered growing in 1868 by Maria Ann “Granny” Smith on her property in the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. She propagated the chance seedling and sold her distinctive bright green apples at local markets. Her apples are now a worldwide favourite!

Granny Smith apples are not genetically modified (they are not GMO). Every Granny Smith apple today is grown on a tree where the wood has been grafted from the original tree in Australia (or more likely, the graft of a graft of a graft). Humans have been grafting fruit trees to clone them for thousands of years!

Note: In the USA, it is possible to buy Granny Smith-type apples that have been genetically-engineered (GMO). These GE apples are called Arctic Apples and are sold as pre-packaged sliced apples in select US cities (mainly in the Midwest).

Granny smith apples

What Do Granny Smith Apples Taste Like?

Granny Smith apples have a distinct sour, acidic, tart taste accompanied with a satisfying crisp-apple crunch. This is an apple with firm, juicy flesh and a sharp tart taste. These characteristics make Granny Smith apples perfect for eating right off the tree or for use in baking (think apple pie!). These apples are neither bland, nor boring!

granny smith apple orchard

Where Are Granny Smith Apples Grown?

Granny Smith apples are grown in mild apple-growing areas all over the world. Originally from Australia, these trees need fewer “chill” hours over winter and a longer growing season to produce the big green apples. Here are some major regions for growing Granny Smith apples:

  • USA (Washington, California, New England)
  • Canada (British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia)
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Mexico

Harvest Season For Granny Smith Apples

Harvest season for Granny Smith apples occurs each year in early autumn. Granny Smith apples are generally harvested in the month of September in the USA. In the southern hemisphere, the variety ripens in March-May.

The first apples of the season tend to be quite tart, while the sweetness increases with days on the tree. A ripe Granny Smith apple is green, but turns slightly yellow when over-ripe.

weighing a granny smith on a kitchen scale
This Granny Smith apple weighs 0.456 lb.

Tips For Buying Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are widely available in supermarkets and grocery stores. They’re generally best-tasting when purchased fresh from the orchard or grower at the farmers market. That said, these apples do keep their flavour well in commercial storage and are a great season for out-of-season tart apples.

Granny Smith apples cost about $1 per pound. There are 2 or 3 Granny Smith apples in a pound. Individual apples cost about 50 cents.

One pound of granny smith apples on weigh scale

How to Grow Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are a versatile variety to grow, particularly in warmer growing areas, thriving in USDA zones 5-9. This variety requires 400-500 hours of winter chilling per year, which is less than some other varieties such as Honeycrisp and Ambrosia. Granny Smith trees may not produce well in the coldest regions where the growing zone is short.

Granny Smith apple trees should be planted where they can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Dig a wide planting hole that’s no deeper than the plant pot. Backfill gently with the native soil and water the tree deeply. Place a 1″-thick layer of compost on the soil around the tree, taking care not place the compost agains the bark of the trunk.

Storing Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are fantastic for long-term storage. They can be stored for months at home and even up to a year in commercial cold storage. The best apples for storage are those without bruises or other damage.

hand holding a granny smith apple

What To Make With Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are wonderful all-round apple. Use fresh-cut slices for an appetizer tray, add them to a smoothie, or bake them into a classic apple pie.

Granny Smith Apple Recipes

Here are some fantastic recipes for Granny Smith apples:

Baking With Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples are excellent for baking. They hold their shape even after baking in the oven. Some recipes use only chunks of Granny Smith apple, while others combine the chunks of this firm apple with a softer variety. Soft types like McIntosh tend to turn to mush on their own, but that quality can help to hold together the cooked cubes of Granny Smith.

Substitutes for Granny Smith Apples

While there is only one Granny Smith, there are several good substitute varieties of apple that are similar in characteristics.

Where fresh apple slices are desired, try Envy, McIntosh, Pink Lady, Northern Spy, or Spartan apples. These apples all have a nice tart crunch to them. While a similar bright green apple peel is not common in grocery stores, Golden Delicious is a yellow-green colour and has a nice balanced sweet-tart fresh taste. Honeycrisp and Ambrosia also make excellent substitutes if a slightly sweeter option is desired.

For baking, substitute Braeburn for Granny Smith. If Braeburn isn’t available, try Golden Delicious or JonaGold. The flavour will be slightly different, but these varieties tend to hold their texture when baked in a pie or crumble.

Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a home gardener who loves creating healthy, welcoming spaces (indoors and out!) - About Mary Jane (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/authors/about-mary-jane-duford/)

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