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:: Feature::

How Apples came to India?

Samual Evan Stokes was the person who introduced apple crop in the hills around Shimla

Having earned the fame as "Apple State", Himachal Pradesh is poised to claim the distinction of being a fruit state not only in the country but worldwide. But very few people really know how apple came in India and whose effort have provided us with the sweet and delicious apple we eat now days. Samual Evan Stokes was the person who introduced apple crop in the hills around Shimla.

Samual came to India with a doctor couple -Mr and Mrs Carleton - who were working with the Leprosy Mission of India. He wanted to work for mission in India. For his decision, he faced a lot of opposition from his family because he was the heir to the family's prosperous business of elevators. But young Stokes was determined and his family relented to let him follow his heart and Samuel landed in Bombay on the February 26, 1904. His voluntary work with the Leprosy Mission started in Sabatoo (what was then Punjab). But the extreme weather conditions forced Samual to take rest at Kotgarh church and recuperate. There, he explored the surrounding hills and the trail that was the old Hindustan-Tibet road. And soon he found himself in love with nature. He decided to spend rest of his life at Thanedar, called the "Mistress of the Northern Hills" by Rudyard Kipling. He married a Rajput-Christian woman called Agnes on September 12, 1912.

Shimla ApplesThough Captain R C Scot of the British army had introduced the Newton Pippin, King of Pippin and the Cox's Orange Pippin apples to the Kullu valley in 1870, but they were strains of the English sour apples that were not popular because of their taste. During those days, sweet apples were imported from Japan to meet the demand of the Indian market.

Delicious ApplesIt was during a visit to America in 1915 that Samuel Stokes heard about the new strain of apples patented by the Stark Brothers nursery in Louisiana called the Red Delicious. He bought a few saplings and planted them at his Barobagh orchard in Thanedar in the winter of 1916. Five years later his mother sent him a consignment of saplings of the Stark Brothers Golden Delicious Apples as a Christmas gift. The first apples bore fruit a few years later and were sold in 1926.

They were an instant hit. The divinely sweet taste and the inviting colour had the Indian market going crazy over them. Their popularity even spurred locals into planting Apples, rather than their usual crops of potato and plums. Soon the demand for the Kotgarh apples sky-rocketed and orchards cropped up all over the valley of Himachal Pradesh, to meet this demand.


It is from these first few saplings that the sweet delicious Apples of Shimla and the Golden Delicious of Kinnaur became popular and Himachal Pradesh grew to become one of the largest producers of the fruit.

 


 Nandini Mittal, AIR Correspondent, Shimla

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