I’m a bit behind on the updates, but then I have been sick. I should have kept up the orange juice, but its so difficult to get good oranges or any fresh fruit these days.
Of course this was not always the case. Sydney was once a fruitbowl, with growers of all types of fresh produce to be found all over the city. Chinese market gardeners were farming in Rushcutters Bay from the 1850s until 1910s; European market gardeners in Redfern from the 1840s until 1890s, others in Alexandria and Waterloo until later. Along the Parramatta River, orchards, vineyards and farms were the main land use from Ryde to Parramatta from the first European settlement in the late 1790s right through until the subdivisions of the 1930s and 1940s finally swept them away. The story is the same for the North Shore from St Leonard’s all the way to Hornsby.
Some of these areas were considered to be tourist attractions. In An Illustrated Guide to Sydney for 1882 the orange and lemon orchards of Parramatta and Lane Cove are mentioned as a place not to be missed. James Pye of Parramatta always welcomed a visitor and had one of the oldest orchards in the area.
With all this growing, a couple of famous fruits came out of it all. Charles Packham, born in Toongabbie in 1842 bred pears on his property out west at Molong and exhibited them at the Royal Easter Show. In cross breeding, Packham came up with the Packham pear, still the principle growing pear in Australia and one of the best-selling varieties in the world.
A contemporary of Charles was Maria Ann Smith who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her family. Smith moved to Eastwood, where amongst other things she grew apples. In 1868, so the story goes, Smith asked two of her neighbours to have a look at a new apple tree growing on her land. The tree had apparently self propagated from crab apple seeds cast aside. A new green apple sprouted and Smith planted out a few of the trees. She died in 1870, but another local orchardist, Edward Gallard planted a lot of the trees and got the new variety on the Department of Agriculture’s list of fruit suitable for export. So began the life of one of Australia’s most recognisable and popular variety of apples, the Granny Smith-Sydney’s own apple.