Happy apple days are back again! #farmfresh #pahari #apples
The first time I witnessed the pahari’s passionate relationship with the apple was way back in the mid ’90s. I was in the hostel and all the pretty girls from Shimla would bring back crates of apples with them when the new session started in August each year. Then they would proceed to lovingly polish these divine fruits off, some generous enough to share, others crunching away after the roomie had dropped off to sleep! My friend Charu was thankfully the sharing kind and I had the fortune to revise my opinion of the apple. Until then, I had eaten the ones we get in the market and the taste of Charu’s apples was a million times better.
Back then, we did not get the imported apples in the markets where we lived in Lucknow. So my mother waited eagerly for the apple season in Himachal to begin. My parents had lived in Chandigarh for many years and they had developed a taste for fresh Himachali apples, my father having a weakness for the golden apples. In those pre-globalisation days, Indians still ate fruits seasonally, and personally I think each fruit was special because we learnt to associate it with certain memories, certain routines–the mango with the summer vacations, for instance and the orange with the winter sunshine!
Nowadays, fruits we buy from the markets in Gurgaon are usually a disappointment. Local produce is hard to find and it’s got to the point when you can taste the chemicals in what you eat! Apples are particularly problematic. My kids love them and it breaks my heart to feed them peeled (because the skins are so waxy) and often soft apples, which the poor darlings eat happily because they don’t know any better!
And so, a few years ago, when a friend mentioned that he’s getting apples from his organic orchards in Himachal, I was hoping he’d be as generous as my friend Charu had been. He did better and sold me an entire box! We had an apple party, called everyone we knew home to taste apples, sent a couple to our neighbours and everyone reminisced about their own memories of the ‘happy apple’ days of yore!
Well, I’m glad to tell you that the ‘happy apple’ days are about to be back for my family. Saazid sent me these pics on my phone a few days ago, knowing my mouth will water.
To tell you a bit more, Saazid is my “cool farmer” friend, by his own description. He is passionate about farming and dairy without additives and chemicals and has helped his father transform his family’s apple orchards up in Kotgarh into something they are very proud of today. The story goes like this.
The apple trees on their land were planted by Saazid’s grandfather in the early 1900s, who was one of the first to do so in that area. In the ’90s, Saazid tells me, Dayal Orchards faced a crisis. Climate change meant a sudden drop in production. As the century turned, Saazid finished his education and came back the farm full of fresh ideas. “Given the circumstances, I knew I had to do something different,” he says. “The various sprays we were working with had to stop and we decided to take the orchard back to what it was till the ’80s. We revived older practices and we now have the satisfaction of producing healthier apples, devoid of chemicals,” he adds.
Today, Saazid is looking to bridge the gap between the farmer and the consumer. For fresh produce, this ‘last mile challenge’ is important and the world over, farmer’s markets have sprung up to address this gap. In the absence of adequate institutional mechanisms to do so, Dayal Orchards has decided to ahead on its own, and is reaching out to consumers in the NCR area who value the quality of the produce and are willing to pay a premium for it.
Now I know that many of us sit on the fence with ‘organic’ food, understanding its value but not quite biting the bullet and paying more for the quality we want. Also, in my experience, sometimes the quality doesn’t match the claims made. But in this instance, I’ve experienced the quality first hand.
So I’m thrilled to have ordered my box of farm fresh apples this season. I can’t wait to hear that crunchy sound and taste the juicy bits of apple. And I’m looking forward to the delight on the faces of my children when they do the same!
If you are in the NCR and want to reach Saazid, reach out to his FB page and he will be happy to answer your queries.