Kashmir - Old
Home of Temperate Fruits
by P.N. Wanchoo
is the soil, climate, and environment those must suit to the culture and
preservation of temperate fruits producing tree stocks. Kashmir probably
is most ideal unparalleled such area in the world. Temperature is the most
important climatic factor affecting the geographic distribution of various
kinds and varieties of temperate fruits over which man has little control.
Apples are produced in all temperate regions of the world in northern and
southern hemisphere. In South Asia, because of tropical climate apples
are not grown except in higher elevations where temperatures are low enough
to meet the chilling requirements of such trees. Hence these are grown
in the Himalayan region of Indian sub-continent, Kashmir placed as it is
in monsoon shadow of greater Himalayas, has thus been more favourably located
for growth of apples and other temperate fruits since times immemorial-a
true, habitat of temperate fruits.
covers the valley (15,130.3 sq. km) with small minor Himalayan valleys
comprising the districts of Anantnag, Badgam, Baramulla, Pulwama, Srinagar,
and Kupwara. It is a unique oval plain approximately 85 miles in length
and 25 miles in breadth at an average altitude of 5300 feet ASL with surrounding
habited mountain areas/ plateaus rising upto 7000 feet ASL nestled securely
in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himalayas, rising 11,000 to 15,000 feet ASL.
The mountains that surround the valley are varied in form, height, and
colour with forest and sub-forest areas - protracted and excessively wet
winters. Nowhere else in the world can one find such an amphitheater of
snow capped mountains surrounding such a large plain, traversed through
its length by a navigable river "Jhelum" serving also as a relief for the
valley and the extensive catchment.
Soil and water
conditions vary considerably with an annual rainfall of 26 inches most
of which is derived from winds associated with winter depressions. Temperatures
are modified by altitude - minimum temperatures of about 11 degree F(-12C)
occur in January and maximum temperatures of about 99 degree F(37C) in
July. December to March are very cold months with mean temperatures of
between 34.2 and 46.9 degree F and receive a rainfall of over 11 inches
(including snow). April and May are cold and mild with precipitation of
over 6 inches and mean temperatures between 55 and 64 degree F. June to
August are hot months with over 6 inches precipitation and mean temperatures
varying between 71 and 76 degree F. September is mild with mean temperature
of 68.5 degree F and precipitation of 1.6 inches. October and November
are cold and dry with rainfall of 1.8 inches and mean temperatures of between
47.7 and 57 degree F. All indexes put together, the valley climate is cold
7000 feet ASL woodlands of Deodar (Kashmir Cedar), Blue Pine, Horse Chestnut,
Walnuts, Pome and Stone fruits, Elm, and Poplars are grown- and occur in
nature too. From 7000 to 10,000 feet ASL Coniferous forests with Fir, Pine,
Spruce, and Berries occur. At and around 10,000 feet ASL, Birch is dominant
and above Birch line there are meadows. This lush green basin is the historic
heartland of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and of the Himalayas.
the unique distinction of possessing an unbroken historical record from
ancient times to the present day. In the words of the "Chronicler" (ancient
times) 'learning, lofty houses, saffron (crocus), grapes and icy water-the
things which are difficult to get in heaven are common here' (Nilanultpurana
and Rajtarangni). Fruits of which was an abundance in Kashmir, formed an
important article of diet. Huen Tsiang, a Chinese pilgrim (AD 631) who
travelled and stayed in the valley for 2 years mentions Pears, Wild Plum,
the Peach, the Apricot, and the Grape as being cultivated in profusion.
Grapes were particularly valued as fruits and were also used in making
wines. "Muss" was the local name for wine.
beauty of Kashmir has been lavishly praised by writers and travellers of
many ages and nationalities. Its snow capped peaks and sparkling streams,
high pastures carpeted with alpine flowers, fertile valley rich with fruits
and grain and its lakes and springs inspired the Mogul Emperor Jehangir
to call the region "Paradise on Earth". The soaring Himalayan ranges surround
the heartland like the ramparts of a natural fortress.
is not possible to say with certainty whether food crops or fruit plants
were man's first cultigens, but historical and other evidence place it
at par. Fruit plantation have always been used by every great culture as
an evidence of social success of advancement of the achievements of some
measure of wealth, ease, and taste. Poets have celebrated richness of orchards/gardens
as one of the most moving accomplishment of the arts of peace and fitting
only too well to the eco-system then and now. "One is nearer God's heart
in a garden than anywhere else on the earth."
of culture of temperature fruits in Kashmir is very ancient, about 3000
years old. Kalhana in Rajtarangni makes mention of it in the reign of King
Nara (1000 BC). Forests in Kashmir were rich in flora and fauna. Indigenous
fruits and nuts etc. that provided food for wild animals in the forests
existed in abundance.
in the valley now habited are still known as Chaere-van (Apricot Forest), Chunt- var (Apple yard), Tangdar (Pear fields), and Alkhi Bag (Sour (bird)
cherry garden). The fruits trees then were grown also on the path edges
and sporadically in the agricultural fields and slopes to provide shade
and food. The regeneration was natural by various ways from indigenous
kinds and types. Animals and birds after eating the pulp of the fruits
deposited the seeds and stones on the ground with residues here and there.
The forest litter and snow cover over winter provided for stratification
resulting in natural regeneration under natural conditions (habitat). Many
arose as chance seedlings of plants and trees. Palweth - Ambri apple of
Kashmir and several others are instances existing.
tree then especially a fruit tree or nut tree was considered a sacred act.
When a boy's head was shaved first time, the crop of hair thus cut used
to be buried underground along with few walnuts in a field or compound/backyard.
Grapes apart from other fruits are recorded to have been grown widely over
Martand plateau in Anantnag until it was ravaged and destroyed by Phylexra
pest probably never to revive. It was after this catastrophe that an irrigation
canal presently known as Martand canal was laid for irrigating the vast
plateau area and rice cultivation extended there after (724-761 AD). The
State records reveal that in 1876 AD a French resident Monsieur H. Denvergua
had made wines from wild grapes of Kashmir. Maharaja Ranbir Singh was enthused
and engaged Monsieur Enmers and Monsieur Peychaud of Chateau and others
for wine making in the valley.
the Moguls (16th Century), the Shamir rulers had laid out gardens and orchards
in the valley. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin "Budshah" (1420- 1470AD) imported
many fruit grafts for furtherance during his reign along with art of grafting
from Central Asia.
and other evidence available reveal that Kashmir in Himalayas was rich
in Pome, Stone, nut fruits, and grapes (vinefera group) from very ancient
times. Modern Pomologists consider apple native to a vast area of temperate
zone from Britain in the northwest to Himalayas in southeast. Likewise
there is a reference with regard to Apricot (P. dasycarpus) reported mainly
grown in China - Kashmir, and Afghanistan (Alan E Simons 'Growing unusual
Fruits' Walker Publishing Inc., USA) to lead about hardy fruit tree growing
in Kashmir in wild form. Walnut (Jugling) are another example which in
ancient times in Kashmir were grown and nuts were used in sacred offerings
to Gods. Likewise Cedrus-Loud 'Kashmir' the Kashmir deodar (cedar) though
similar to the species in general morphological characters, but being much
harder. The writer in his long career (Jammu and Kashmir State) in horticultural
development in Kashmir has been gathering rootstocks, seeds, nuts, and
stones of Malus Sp., Prunus Sp., and Juglaus Sp., as propagating material
(rootstocks) from the wilds. Many species of Malus (Crab Apples) with fruits
of the size of bird cherry to 1.8 inches, likewise the prunus sp., (wild
and indigenous plums, apricot, and cherry), pyrus sp., (wild and indigenous
pears), Juglaus regia (hard and thin shelled walnuts), and Grapes (vitis riparia) are found growing in the woods and nearby. Seed pips of Hapat
Trel (Malus Sp.). Bears Crab Apple considered to be Bear food, have been
widely used as apple root stock in Kashmir. Kashmir has been a source for
a longtime of propagating material of temperate fruits and nuts for other
temperate areas of Indian subcontinent.
every aboriginal tree, plant, fruit, and flower are known and identified
by their local nomenclature like Chunt for Apple, Tang for Pear, Chaer
for Apricot, Duon for Walnut, Fresst for Poplar, Weer for Willow (Salyx), Alich-for Wild cherry, Aer for Plum, Dach for Grape, and so on. Improved
varieties and types have flourished overtime at the expense of wild aboriginal.
We have been ruthless in felling broad leave species of aboriginal fruits
for fuel and commerce over time thus minimizing their existence.
nomenclature and other details of fruit trees-varieties of various kinds
grown in Kashmir were not available until after 1945, when survey was commenced
and revealed identification and location of 113 varieties of Apples, 62
varieties of Pears, 31 of Plum, and 14 of Cherry in early, medium, and
late groups, besides scores of wild crabs/Pip (Malus Sp.) etc.
With the improvements
in fruit tree raising, management, and marketing over time the area under
cultivation of fruits in Kashmir has increased from abare 14,000 hectare
with blanks in 1950 to 187,000 hectare in 1993-94 with apples covering
over sixty per cent area. Apples and other temperale fruits grown under
different environment conditions vary considerably in their character,
but qualitatively apples and other fruits generally produced in Kashmir
are by far better than those of the same varieties produced in other regions
in the Himalayas which receive monsoon. Kashmir apples have exhibited better
keeping quality (shelf life) under local conditions. A western expert,
who was coopted as one of the judges at a fruit show/exhibition declared
that the Cox orange apple produced in Kashmir was qualitatively superior
(taste, juice, and crispness) to one produced in his home country. About
15-20 per cent of the total area under fruit plantations is assessed irrigated
and over 80 per cent area as unirrigated. Approximately 300,000 households
are the owner operators of fruit crop holdings in Kashmir with over 70
per cent of the holders owning and operating 0.2 to 0.4 hectare holdings
and only 4 per cent holders own holdings between 1 to 12 hectares. Kashmir
is now forging ahead with standardized rootstocks as in other countries
with Italian and Bulgarian assistance. A lot more remains to be done to
enhance productivity per tree/unit area.
the great Russian geneticist and plant Explorer/Collector has made study
of the distribution of the economic plants in 60 countries of the world.
Vavilov's conclusions 1926 and 1935 determine the centers of origin of
almost all cultivated Pome, Stone, and nut fruits of temperate regions
to Persia and Afghanistan.
Search of ancient
literature - Sanskrit, Hebrew, Chinese, for names of fruits has provided
another valuable source of information concerning the native habitat of
many cultivated plants and some of Vavilov's conclusions have had to be
modified on this score.
that Vavilov did not peep into Kashmir Himalayas and thus left valley of
Kashmir pomologically undiscovered. Kashmir was a princely state then within
British India and continued so until late 1947. The British Government
had taken Gilgit area of the state bordering Russia on lease from Maharaja
of Kashmir. The British must have been controlling therefore the entry
and movement of Russians particularly into Kashmir valley then.
This has obviously
deprived Kashmir the real habitat in Himalayas of temperate fruits (Pomes,
Stones and Nuts) being explored, recognized and recorded as the oldest
home of temperate fruits.
I hope the
present day Pomologists, Horticulturists, Plant Explorers, and Collectors
will take a view and seek amendments of generic records known so far.