Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who is Granny Smith, anyway?

I was walking through Pike Place Market this weekend, and I saw a beautiful pile of bright green apples displayed at one of the several fruit stands. Written on a sign in bright red letters, the apples were advertised as “Granny Smith” for $1.99 per pound.

I have spent my whole life enjoying the sweet, yet tart deliciousness of the Granny Smith apple, but whose grandma is this apple actually named after? I wanted to shout right then and there, “Can the real Granny Smith please stand up!?”

But I didn’t. However, I had found my MUSE! I bought a pound of the bright green fruits and headed back to my writer’s studio to research. Here is what I found.

Maria Ann Sherwood Smith of Sussex, England is the real Granny Smith. She was born in 1799 to a farm laborer. (A farm laborer is a person who works on the farm but does not own it. That would be the farmer or planter.) She later married a farm laborer herself, Thomas Smith.
The couple had eight children before they decided to leave England with several other farming families to New South Wales, Australia. They boarded the Lady Nugent and arrived in Sydney on November 27th, 1838.

The couple had another child, and in the mid 1850’s, Thomas purchased 24 acres of land for the family’s first orchard.

And as the story goes, around 1868 Maria found some seedling apple trees growing along a creek bank on her property. She figured they had come from a variety of French crab apples. She kept working with the seedlings and finally developed the crunchy, sweet and sour cultivar we know today as the Granny Smith apple.

Sadly, Granny Smith did not live to see her apples reach commercial success. But her legacy lives on today for developing one of the best cooking and desert apples of all time. It wasn’t until 1935 that the Granny Smith was cultivated in England (her homeland). And in 1972, the Granny Smith was introduced to the United States.

Granny Smith died in 1870, and while she had several grandchildren of her own – she is the only woman known to the whole world as Granny Smith.

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character developed his/her own apple cultivar? Maybe this apple gives people invisibility if they eat it.

WHAT IF the ghost of Granny Smith was haunting the apple orchard in your story? What does she want? What will she do to get it?

WHAT IF you used James and the Giant Peach as your inspiration and wrote a story about a character and a giant apple. How could you make the story unique from Roald Dahl’s classic tale?
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon

The word of the day is “cultivar”. Here is the definition: A variety of plant that originated and persisted under cultivation. This means that the plant did not originate in the wild. Humans have altered the plant to produce a better taste, a more desired color, higher yield, etc.. The Granny Smith apple is a cultivar. It never existed in the wild.