Being born and brought up in Shimla meant that I had heard about and savoured the famous Himachal Apples since childhood. However, I had never really gone to an orchard to know about the details of the apple economy. But in September this year, while spending time at the Homestay of Prem Chand Negi (our guide for the Bhabha Pin Pass trek) in Kafnu, I finally got “A Quick Study of Apples”.
Negi Ji’s younger son Gaurav took us to the orchards, which were located around 10 minutes away from the village. It was a pretty big property and it felt great watching the trees laden with apples. We could however see the impact of environmental changes on the crops – unseasonal hailstones had damaged quite a lot of the apples. In fact, Negi Ji later informed us that due to the damage, he had to sell the first batch of apples at 1/5th of the regular prices. It felt bad because I know that apple trees require a lot of attention, care and grooming, and if the crops don’t give returns as expected, it’s a real hard kick on the pocket and the stomach of the farmer and the family.
Gaurav informed us that plucking, grading segregation and packing on the latest batch of apples would start in a day or two. I was surprised to know that there was an “Extra Small” grade of apples too. Some of the fallen apples not suitable for sale would be dried up and used as food stock for winter, while others would be used for brewing local liquor. I also saw the live example of grafting where Royal (red) and Golden (yellow/green) apples were growing on the same tree. Gaurav plucked a few fresh apples for us and we headed back to the village, laden with new knowledge and the crop of hard work, sweat and tears.