Difference between: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith

For the month of September, I thought I’d try something a little different, and have all Difference Between and Food History posts be apple related.  

Let’s have some fun as we head into apple season!

We’re going to start off with two of the most well known green apples: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.

Before I really get into the heart of my apple posts, I have to share this amazing article I found on SeriousEats.com here.

A chef undertook an incredibly thorough experiment: 10 different apple pies from 10 different apples. There is a breakdown of which apples work better for flavor, texture, etc. I would highly recommend checking it out. That particular cook prefers to use one type of apple for one apple pie.

However, if you click on the link in the above picture, it brings you to a recipe for deep dish apple pie including both varieties we are highlighting here today.

Moving along. . .

For these apple Difference Betweens, I thought I would do a bullet list breakdown of facts, uses, etc., for each apple, with a separate list on the trees, followed by a little history on their origins and any other additional information.

A note on apple cider: It is my understanding that cider is best when made from a blend of many different apples. Therefore, for my apple Difference Betweens, none are specified as being great for cider, although they certainly can be.

Golden Delicious apples:

  • Are the state fruit of West Virginia.
  • Are not related to Red Delicious in any way.
  • Season begins in mid-September, and can go into the winter.
  • Are a light green to a pale yellow in color, with tender skin.
  • Have a crisp flavor exuding freshness.
  • Have a flesh that stays white on the inside fairly long.
  • Are good for folks with “touchy stomachs.”
  • Uses – best for applesauce and apple butter; decent for pies.

With the aforementioned pie experiment, Golden Delicious actually came in at an 8 out of 10 – the best of all 10 apples observed.

The chef notes that it’s both sweet and tart, the most perfect balance of flavor out of any of the other apples. The only complaint was that it could have been a bit firmer in texture.

Golden Delicious apple trees:

  • Are self-fruitful (most apple trees are not).
  • Have a long season.
  • Are quite frost resistant.
  • Are heavy fruit bearers.

The original Golden Delicious apple tree was a chance seedling uncovered in 1912 by a man named Anderson Mullins. This tree grew near Porter Creek in Clay County, West Virginia. And it produced Golden Delicious apples for almost 50 years.

(A “chance seedling” is a plant species discovered by chance.)

The Stark brothers of Stark Nurseries “discovered” this new kind of apple in 1914. After purchasing the tree from the Mullins’ family farm, the Stark Brothers took the apple to another level.

With heavy advertising, Golden Delicious soon became a nationwide treasure. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the breakfast food company, wrote a letter to Stark Nurseries declaring the Golden Delicious the best apple he had ever tasted.

Each apple that exists today presumably is derived from a “parent” apple, although it can be unclear which types exactly. With Golden Delicious, it is believed to be a relative of Grimes Golden.

Today, Golden Delicious is still a beloved apple variety. There is an annual Clay County Golden Delicious Festival in West Virginia, where the apple was announced state fruit in 1995.

Granny Smith apples:

  • Are advantageous for their long shelf life.
  • Contain more antioxidants than most other apples.
  • Have an even light green color.
  • Have a later season, October/November.
  • Are slightly grainy.
  • Are crisp and crunchy.
  • Are extremely tart.
  • Uses – are considered an all-purpose apple. Because of their tart taste, they’re better for eating fresh than cooking. However, their acidity helps them maintain their shape well when baked.

With regards to the apple pie experiment, Granny Smith was rated a 5 out of 10. Not surprisingly, the flavor was described as tart, with the texture very firm and crunchy.

The chef said, “It holds up almost indefinitely when cooking. They have good brightness, but not much apple-y flavor.”

Granny Smith apple trees:

  • Are not self-fruitful – Golden Delicious is one of the recommended varieties to pair with Granny Smith trees.
  • Are one of the fastest growing apple trees.
  • Are easy to grow.
  • Grow in many different soils.
  • Are not terribly susceptible to disease.
  • Produce apples that always stay green; they do not change color to indicate ripening, like most other apples.

The origin of the Granny Smith apple begins, appropriately, with a woman dubbed “Granny Smith.” Indeed, Granny Smith was a real person.

Maria Ann Sherwood of England married and became Maria Ann Smith when she was only 19. Maria Ann was from a farmer family. When word came around that Australia needed farmers, she and her husband boarded a boat in 1838. An orchard was developed.

In 1868, when Maria Ann was 69, she found the seedling – a chance seedling, as with Golden Delicious – growing from French crabapples she had planted. Today, it is believed that the Granny Smith apple is a cross between those foreign crabapples and apples domestic to Australia. 

The apple became popular across New Zealand as well as Australia. Unfortunately, Maria Ann never saw her apples gain the recognition they deserved, as she passed away in 1870. That’s just two years after she discovered the seedling.

For more on the history of Granny Smith, this article goes in depth.

In the early 1890s, the Granny Smith apple won a prize for Best Cooking Apple at an Australian Agricultural and Horticultural Show. The apple traveled to the UK in the 1930s, and made its way to the United States by the 1970s.

As there is a Golden Delicious Festival, there is also a Granny Smith Festival. It’s held in Ryde, New South Wales.

Both Golden Delicious and Granny Smith were two of four apples featured on 33-cent stamps; the others were Northern Spy and Baldwin.

5 thoughts on “Difference between: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith

  1. The experiment’s criteria for the desirable result in apple pies is perfectly questionable. Why would you want crunchy and firm apple chunks in a “cooked” pie? Most upscale chefs all over the world consider Granny Smith apples inferior to Golden Delicious in every aspect when it comes to baking. Tartness can be easily added in a number of ways. The great apple aroma that Golden Delicious has and that Granny Smith does not, cannot be artificially added.

    1. I agree completely! In addition if you have goldens left in the fridge that are shriveled you can still make a decent pie with them!! No other apple does this.

  2. Granny Smith apples are by far THE best apples on the planet. No other apple compares when it comes to taste and crispness. Who cares about Apple pies? Granny Smith apples are incredibly delicious just by eating them. No other apple gets past my lips.

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