Late summer and autumn is harvest time for many fruits, after their spring blossoms, busy bees pollinating, and hearty summer growth phase. While many fruits are available one way or another through the year, it’s so good to find the sign “new season”, which should mean they are very recent pickings.
In the annual calendar, right now it’s the apple’s time to shine. Keep reading to take a closer look at New Zealand’s apple heritage, and find out who Granny Smith really is…
Thanks to Samuel Marsden
A member of the rose family, apple trees were first introduced into New Zealand around 1819. We have the missionary, Samuel Marsden, to thank for this. The original planting site was Kerikeri. Now they are grown throughout various of New Zealand’s pip fruit regions - Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Central Otago, and Waikato.
The trees themselves originated in central Asia. And it is certainly not the case that, if you’ve had one apple, you’ve had them all. There are literally thousands of varieties of cultivar. This country has done its bit on this front… while the apple may not have started out here, New Zealand has a proud history of coming up with new and desirable varieties.
Some very well known apple “names" - Pacific Rose, Gala, Royal Gala, Braeburn, and the Royal Gala / Braeburn “marriage" into Jazz - are all New Zealand inventions.
There are excellent apple growing conditions on offer in New Zealand. Apples enjoy climates that provide a distinct winter period - a dormancy period, for a bit of time out - and then a dry warm summer with plenty of sunshine. And, with that on offer in our pip fruit regions, it is great to see these New Zealand originated varieties enjoying success around the world.
Who is Granny Smith?
Eyeing up a bright green shiny new season apple, you wonder who Granny Smith is - a New Zealander by chance?
Well, no. The Granny Smith apple itself is a French crab apple descendant. This goes some way to explain its thicker skin and sharper taste, which sweetens as it ages and the sugars come through (just like grannies!).
Though we can definitely claim the pavlova (click here for more about that), Granny Smith herself (full name: Maria Ann Smith) is fairly and squarely Australian. On immigrating to New South Wales, Mrs Smith and her husband purchased a small orchard. By all accounts, a chance seedling sprung up under her kitchen window sill after throwing out the remains of some French crab apples.
All those apple phrases
Once you start to think about it, there are so many common expressions revolving around apples.
There’s Adam’s apple. Eve gave him the forbidden fruit, commonly misrepresented as an apple. Apparently this is unlikely - apples weren’t known to be in the Mediterranean at the time. It got stuck in his throat, making the lump.
An apple a day might keep the doctor away. But only if you eat the skin, which has a bunch of phytochemicals that are particularly good for you. (And while some have a habit of eating apples "seeds and all", the apple’s wee black seeds do contain a cyanide based substance. You would have to eat quite a few whole apples for things to turn awry, but perhaps enjoying the flesh and composting the core is the way to go.)
Their use as a symbol to curry favour with the teacher is longstanding. Historically, in various countries, families of children attending poorer schools were responsible for housing and feeding the teachers. With a shortage of money, produce from family farms, like potatoes or apples, were supplied in place of money. (These days most of the apples in schools are a technological cultivar… )
New season fruit, the apple of our eye
What better thing to lay eyes on, and teeth into, than a freshly picked new season apple, at its crunchiest, sweetest, and most nutritious.
If not eaten as is, it is common to use that delicious apple flesh in many sweet dishes. But apples also shine in savoury situations, and make great friends with different herbs. A favourite is an apple slaw, which works really well served with pork and cold cuts. To check out our apple slaw idea, click here.