When Captain Cook set sail from England in August 1768 he would hardly have dreamed that 200 years later Australia – the country he was about to discover – would be exporting nearly £100 million worth of food to the United
Nor could Captain Bligh have guessed, when he planted Australia’s first apple tree in 1788, that almost 200 years later exports of Australian fruits alone to Britain would amount to £20 million per year.
Then just under 100 years after Captain Bligh planted the fruit tree, refrigeration made it possible to export frozen meat and dairy produce, and another enormous trade with Australia was born.
Although Australia is on the other side of the world, its products are no further away than your grocery store.
And during Balmoral Show its canned fruit, its apples and pears and a selection of sheepskin rugs, slippers and jewellery will be available on the Australian Department of Trade’s Stand in the King’s Hall.
And what’s more, you’ll be served by an Australian Miss – one of the team of Golden Girls who have flown specially to Belfast to attend the show.
Captain Bligh’s planting of Tasmania’s first apple trees was the foundation of what is now one of the most famous and important fruit growing industries in the world.
Early 19th century settlers in Tasmania soon discovered how suited was the climate to fruit growing. Today, 80 per cent of all Australian apples exported to the United Kingdom come from the ‘Apple Isle’.
Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and blackcurrents all flourish in Tasmania where most of Australia’s canned soft fruits are also produced.
One of the most interesting stories from the early history of Australia’s apple industry concerns the famous green, clear-skinned apple known all over the world as the ‘Granny Smith’. Granny Smith was a settler from Britain. She had a small market garden at Eastwood, near Sydney, and used to drive to market with her fruit, vegetables and eggs. Among the apples she sold was one that soon took to being marked on the boxes as ‘apples from Granny Smith’.
One of her trees produced this particular apple and it was where, long before, Granny Smith had tipped out the remains of some apples, probably French crab apples from Tasmania. The seeds produced a tree which she carefully nutured with the help of an experienced nurseryman, James Spurway, who showed her how to propagate the apple by taking buds and grafting them onto the other stocks. Soon, there were many of these apples available and fruit growers acquired them eagerly.
Demand eventually became world-wide for the Granny Smith apple which has few equals for either dessert or cooking and has the immense advantage of keeping well.