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How do you know when granny smith apples are ripe?

Granny Smith apples are a tart, crisp, green apple variety that are popular for baking and eating fresh. Knowing when Granny Smith apples are ripe and ready to pick can be tricky since they don’t change color like other apple varieties. This guide will go over the signs to look for so you can harvest Granny Smith apples at their peak ripeness.

Background on Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples originated in Australia in the 1860s when a woman named Maria Ann Smith propagated the first tree from a chance seedling. The apples were tart and firm, great for baking. The tree produced prolific amounts of fruit without much care. The apples became popular in Australia and later made their way to Europe and the Americas in the 1930s.

Today, Granny Smith is one of the most widely grown apple varieties in the world. They are a good multi-purpose apple that stores well. Granny Smith trees are vigorous growers that begin bearing fruit after 2-3 years. The trees have some resistance to apple scab and fire blight.

Granny Smith Apple Ripening Stages

Granny Smith apples go through the following stages as they ripen on the tree:

  • Early – Apples are very small, completely green, hard, and excessively tart. Not good for eating.
  • Breaker – Apples start lightening slightly in color with a yellowish tinge, but still mostly green. Firmness starts declining.
  • Pre-Ripe – Apples are light green blushing slightly yellow. Tart but with some sweetness. Good for cooking.
  • Ripe – Apples are still green but may have brown speckles. Flesh is crispy, juicy, and balanced between sweetness and tartness. Great for eating fresh or cooking.
  • Overripe – Apples start softening and lose their tart, crisp qualities.Flavor becomes uneven. Not ideal for eating or cooking.

Granny Smith apples are typically harvested when they reach the ripe or pre-ripe stages. This is when their color has lightened somewhat and the flesh is still very crisp but has developed good sugar levels to balance out the acidity. Apples harvested at the breaker stage will ripen further off the tree.

Signs that Granny Smith Apples are Ripe

Since Granny Smith apples don’t change color dramatically, you need to watch for other signs that they are fully ripe and ready for picking:

  • Days from full bloom – Granny Smith apples take an average of 145 days from full bloom of the flowers to mature. Count the days from bloom to estimate ripeness.
  • Calendar date – In most regions, Granny Smith ripen from mid August through November. Check typical harvest dates for your area.
  • Test starch content – Mature apples will test low in starch. Use an apple starch test kit or slice an apple in half and apply iodine solution to test for remaining starch.
  • Flesh firmness – Ripe apples feel firm and dense when squeezed gently. If pressure leaves an indentation, they are getting overripe.
  • Taste – The flavor will mellow and become sweeter as apples ripen. But Granny Smiths remain tart even when ripe.
  • Seeds – Dark brown mature seeds are a sign ripe apples.
  • Stem and spur separation – A loosening connection between the apple and stem or spur is a cue that maturity is near.

No single factor is definitive on its own. Use a combination of these signs to determine ripeness stage.

Optimal Time to Pick Granny Smith Apples

Granny Smith apples can be harvested over a few weeks when allowed to fully tree ripen. However, they ripen variably even on the same tree. So commercial growers often do 2-4 pickings, getting the first ripe apples off the tree early. Home gardeners have more flexibility for timing the harvest.

For the best flavor and texture, plan to pick Granny Smith apples in the ripe or breaker stages. Apples picked at the breaker stage will finish ripening off the tree at room temperature. Refrigerating early-picked apples can damage quality and prevent full ripening.

Use several indicators of ripeness rather than relying on days from full bloom or calendar dates alone. The goal is to harvest the apples before they become mealy or soft.

If you plan to store the apples for several months, pick them on the early side when starch content tests show they are pre-ripe. Then store properly to allow continued ripening.

How to Store Fresh Picked Granny Smith Apples

For best quality and storage life, follow these tips for handling freshly picked Granny Smith apples:

  • – Leave stems attached and handle gently to avoid bruising.
  • – Sort apples, removing any damaged or spoiled fruit.
  • – Store ripe apples in refrigeration within a couple days of picking.
  • – Line storage bins or boxes with padding to prevent bruising.
  • – Ideal storage conditions are 32-40° F with 90-95% humidity.
  • – Avoid letting apples get too cold, which damages texture.
  • – Check apples and cull out any spoiling fruit regularly.
  • – Store for 2-5 months depending on initial ripeness and storage conditions.

With proper post-harvest care, Granny Smith apples will retain their characteristic tart flavor and crisp crunch for months after picking.

Common Problems When Growing Granny Smith Apples

Growing healthy, delicious Granny Smith apples requires some care and vigilance. Here are some common issues to watch for:

Problem Signs Solutions
Apple scab – Olive green spots on leaves and fruit.
– Scabby, dark lesions on fruit.
– Pick resistant varieties.
– Remove and destroy fallen leaves.
– Apply fungicide sprays.
Cedar apple rust – Bright yellow/orange spots on leaves.
– Furnace-like lesions on fruit.
– Remove nearby cedar trees.
– Apply fungicide sprays.
Codling moth – Holes bored into apples.
– Frass around holes.
– Use pheromone traps.
– Apply insecticide sprays.
Apple maggot – Irregular brown trails under skin.
– Soft, mushy spots on fruit.
– Pickup fallen apples.
– Use traps/lures.
– Cover fruits.

A combination of cultivar selection, sanitation practices, and targeted sprays can help minimize apple tree problems. Consult local extension resources for recommended treatments.

How Granny Smiths Compare to Other Apple Varieties

Granny Smith apples have a distinctive tart, crisp flavor profile. How do they compare to some other popular fresh eating and baking apple varieties?

Apple Variety Flavor Texture Best Use
Granny Smith Very tart Very crisp Baking/eating
Honeycrisp Sweet Crisp Eating
Fuji Sweet Tender Eating
Braeburn Sweet-tart Crisp Eating
Pink Lady Sweet-tart Crisp Eating
Gala Mildly sweet Crisp Snacking
Red Delicious Mildly sweet Mealy Snacking
McIntosh Tangy sweet Tender Sauces

Granny Smiths stand out from the crowd with their bright green skin and distinctly tart, crunchy flesh. Their high acidity makes them an excellent choice for baking apples pies and other recipes where you want fruit that holds its shape and balances sweet ingredients.

For eating fresh, Pink Ladies, Honeycrisps, Braeburns and other crisp, sweet-tart varieties tend to be more popular. But some folks love the mouth-puckering tartness of a chilled Granny Smith!

Popular Uses for Granny Smith Apples

Beyond eating fresh, Granny Smiths really shine when cooked and baked. They maintain their texture beautifully. Their tartness balances sweeter ingredients. Some favorite ways to use Granny Smith apples include:

  • – Baked whole apples – Core and fill with cinnamon, brown sugar, nuts, etc
  • – Applesauce – Cooked down with sugar and spices
  • – Pies – Classic apple pie filling
  • – Turnovers – Encased in flaky pastry
  • – Cobblers/crisps – Baked under oat topping
  • – Tartes tatin – Upside down baked apple tart
  • – Cakes – Add diced apples to breads and cakes
  • – Muffins – Stud muffins with fresh apple chunks
  • – Salads – Thinly sliced on greens, chicken salads, etc
  • – Sauces – Pureed/simmered into pan sauces for pork chops, etc
  • – Juice/cider – Made into fresh pressed juice or fermented cider

Granny Smiths are too tart to eat raw for many folks. But their dense, crisp texture also makes them a great apple for freezing. Simply slice and freeze in freezer bags to have on hand for baking all year round.


Granny Smith apples are a culinary workhorse that can be used in endless sweet and savory dishes. While they don’t dramatically change color as they ripen, watching for signs like subtle yellowing, seeds turning brown, and taste mellowing can cue you into when they are ripe and ready for harvest. Look for Granny Smith apples from August through November depending on your climate. With proper post-harvest storage, these tart green apples will retain their texture and flavor for months after picking.