John Cripps was a horticulturist working for Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture. His main responsibility was work with grape vine rootstocks. However, he was permitted to pursue his interest in apple-breeding “provided it didn’t interfere with work considered more important”.
After more than seven years of cross-breeding, Cripps produced two new varieties which became known as the Cripps Pink and the Cripps Red. Both shared the same parentage – the Golden Delicious and the Lady Williams. The Lady Williams itself originated in Western Australia and was discovered as a chance seedling in the 1930s. It’s thought to be a cross between a Granny Smith and a Rokewood.
Not every Cripps Pink becomes a Pink Lady. The brand Pink Lady® is only used for fruit that meets quality specifications. The first Pink Lady® apples were exported to the UK in 1992. By 1996, over 1 million Pink Lady® trees were planted in Australia, producing more than 10,000 tonnes of apples.
The apples have a distinctive pink colouring, crispness and fizzy flavour. They have become the biggest-selling apple in Australia. The plant-breeders rights are owned by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), while the brand is owned and managed in more than 80 countries by Apple and Pear Australia Limited. The original Cripps Pink tree is still growing at DAFWA’s Manjimup Horticultural Research Institute.
Cripps Pink apples have an extremely long ripening season. They blossom in late September to early October, but are among the last apples to be harvested in late April or May. Their distinctive colouring owes much to the change in temperature between night and day in the autumn. They are now being grown in many countries around the world.
Pink Lady® apples are named after a cocktail enjoyed by the hero of Nicholas Monsarrat’s novel The Cruel Sea. The Cripps Red apple is known by the brand name Sundowner®.