On the trail of Apples

Snowclad Peaks at the backdrop of Apple Trees

Himachal Pradesh is everything a holiday should be. We would be happy to take you to a unique “Apple Tour to Himachal Pradesh”. The Apples have a unique history in India that is as interesting as our Apple Tour! Read on…

Himachal Pradesh
A trip to Himachal Pradesh makes for a relaxing staycation where the alluring Himalayas dominate most of the sights, quaint colonial towns that make you reminisce the era gone by,  sounds of the gushing trout-laden rivers that soothe you, and the colorful monasteries that make you escape the chaos of our minds. Seems almost poetic, right? Well, this spectacular state has a whole other side to it too. Right from high-altitude mountaineering treks to paragliding, Himachal Pradesh has many adventurous activities that will make it to your post-quarantine bucket list. Himachal Pradesh is indeed blessed by nature’s bounty!

But wait, there is more. Himachal Pradesh is also known for its juicy, crispy, and delicious red and golden apples. The apple that you dig into this morning at the breakfast table most likely has its origins in Himachal Pradesh! As one of the few states in India that is known for its fragrant and picturesque apple orchards, Himachal Pradesh’s cold winters and moderate summers makes it ideal for the growth of apples. And a trip to Himachal Pradesh would not be complete without an ‘apple hike’ through lush meadows and quiet woods. 

Now that we are on the topic of apples, how about heading to an apple orchard and enjoy a day full of plucking fresh apples off the trees? If you are not sure how to go about it, worry not! We will take you “on the trail of the Apples” to this land of pristine beauty. In case you are already excited by the prospect of this holiday, go ahead and fill this form. 

Apple History. So how did the ‘Delicious’ apples come to India?
We bet you would be surprised to know that the most commonly grown variety of apples in the state, ‘Delicious’ is not India, but American! Satyananda Stokes (born as Samuel Evans Stokes, Jr.) an American (in the then British-ruled India) planted the first-ever apple tree of this variety of apple along the hilltops of Kotgarh, 3 hours north-east of Shimla. 

This seems surprising to many. Think about it, an American lands in the then British-ruled India to volunteer with the doctors, goes to Himachal Pradesh, falls so in love with the place that he makes it his future home, and plants a variety of apple that goes on to become a staple for most Indians. Isn’t this impressive?

Read on for more on Stokes and his story
Born in 1882 to a distinguished family of Quakers of Christian descent, Stokes’s father was the founder of the Stokes & Parrish Machine Co., one of America’s first major elevator firms. The world of business did not interest young Samuel. Stokes was inspired by Dr. Carleton, a doctor who was then working with leprosy patients in Subathu (Himachal Pradesh) and decided that he wanted to do greater good in life. And so, he left for India. During his initial years, Stokes helped his mentor with some elementary surgical procedures. While working here, he eventually picked up the local pahari language in an attempt to gain the confidence of the locals. In 1912, he married a local woman Benjamin Agnes.  

One summer, Dr. Carleton sent Stokes to Kotgarh, a small Himachali hamlet, which later went on to become his life-long abode. Stokes instantly fell in love with this picturesque village situated along the old Hindustan-Tibet Road and decided to buy a land estate here. In 1916, Stokes came across a variety of apples from Louisiana, USA, which he thought would grow well in the climate of Himachal Pradesh. He imported them to India and started a plantation on his farmland. Little did he know, his apple plantations would change the local economy forever! 

He then gave away the apple plants freely and encouraged the local farmers to follow his footsteps. He even offered them help with selling and even exporting their produce. Initially, the local farmers were hesitant in planting the apple trees because the trees almost took 6-7 years to come to fruition. But he managed to gradually convince the farmers to plant apples. And the rest is history! 

Stokes is to India what John Chapman is to the United States. Better known as Johnny Appleseed, Chapman was the one to have introduced apple trees to many states of America. Similarly, back home in India, Stoke’s horticultural revolution gained him the title of ‘Johnny Appleseed of the Himalayas’ and he is still known by the name. 

In the following years, Stokes moved closer to Hinduism, and eventually embraced the religion in 1932. Samuel then took the name ‘Satyanand’ and his wife changed her name to ‘Priyadevi’. He was inspired by the Gandhian thoughts and took a part in India’s freedom struggle as well. 

Today, the small town of Narkanda has a bust of Stokes to mark his tremendous contribution to the locals. 

Stokes’ legacy has been passed down and is today carried forward by his next generation and a few of the extended family members. The current generation of Stokes keep experimenting with the new varieties of apples.  

Other regions in Himachal known for its apple production
Apple is grown in many districts of Himachal, including Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Sirmaur, Kinnaur, and Chamba districts. But Shimla, with its traditional apple-growing belt including Rohru, Jubbal, Kotkhai, and Kotgarh is still the biggest producer in the state. Thanedar, especially, has been pivotal to apple cultivation in India. The Apple Tour To Himachal Pradesh suggested by Infinite Journeys has visit to Thanedar and Sangla region. 

Best time to visit
If you plan on seeing the apple trees in all their glory, the best time to visit the orchards in Himachal would be during the harvesting season. The harvesting of the fruit starts in the month of July and goes on till September. But we think August would be an ideal time to visit, typically from 10th to the 30th in the Thanedar -Kothai belt. Here you can see how different varieties of apple jams, juices, wines, and other products are made. We suggest you also take back some stuff as souvenirs. Harvesting in Kinnaur / Sangla region starts late (end September) owing to the lower average temperature.

A lady plucking Apples from Trees.
A regular site during The Apple Tour To Himachal Pradesh, a lady plucking the Apples from the trees.


Visiting apple orchards of Himachal
So are you planning an Apple Tour To Himachal Pradesh but not sure about what the experience would be like? Let us paint you a little picture. If you are planning to visit during the harvest season, you are in for a treat. As apples ripen and are near-bursting, one can visit the orchards and pluck them from the tree, with due permissions of course 🙂

There is nothing quite like heading out in a golden sun-bathed apple farm and feel the crisp Himalayan breeze brush against your face. The on-site wineries and many decadent homemade baked items are something everyone will enjoy. You can easily spend a few hours here, while also setting up a small picnic overlooking the sprawling Himalayas.   

The stay is amidst the Apple Orchards.
The stay is amidst the Apple Orchards.
Couple resting under the Apple Trees.
Once you have walked in the Orchards and plucked the fruits, you are allowed to relax 🙂

Apple Tour To Himachal Pradesh would be a perfect sojourn that awaits you! Sounds exciting, right? To embark “On the Trail of Apples”, do get in touch with us.

Author : Rahul Bhusari and Aaditee Kulkarni
More about Rahul on : Click Here

Key Links that you can see :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyananda_Stokes

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