It was time when I was in Kotgarh region of Himachal Pradesh during my 5 year Sabbatical. Kotgarh hills are popular for it's high quality fruits. Around Kotgarh hills, there are various orchards of Apples, Pears, Cherries, Kiwi, Almonds, Apricot etc. During the month of May, cherries were shining all over the hill. This Photo Journey shares some of the moments spent around these orchards and an account on some of the surprises came across.
We were coming back towards Shimla from Kinnaur, when we thought of taking this detour through Kotgarh & Karkanda. And Kotgarh region welcomes us with hills full of bight-red colored cherries of big size. I had hardly seen such big sized cherries in markets around me. I am sure that these are available in some of the speciality stores, but most of these are exported outside the country. We only get the smaller version.
Although we wanted to buy few boxes, but we also wanted to experience the way folks pluck these cherries and enjoy this juicy fruit. We couldn't see anyone around but encountered few dog having huge size and relatively calm. Those were really scary. Somehow, this increased our curiosity to figure out ways to climb us the hill and pluck few cherries.
While driving through these Cherry orchards, we found an isolated area which looked relatively safe to us for plucking these red & big cherries :) . Although, I couldn't decide to go up and pluck some. Aneesh parked his bike and went up to grab few. He had just climbed when few localites came to us. We were worried, but they were very sweet. They said that pluck the ones which are hanging on the edges of tree branches. It seems that cherries on other end of a branch are considered better. But they told another reason as well that it's important to clean-up the branch extremes to have right balance. We were wondering about other such practices which are important to maintain these orchards for years and produce quality fruits.
In front of those folks, we chose to pluck handful of cherries which we managed to finish in 5 minutes, but we thought of leaving the place. But we definitely wanted to have more. After driving for next 5 minutes, we found a smaller road which are taking us to another hill, which looked more interesting from a distance. Aneesh keeps trying some stunts on his KTM Duke200, while driving. Some of the orchard owners sitting across the road noticed him and asked to stop. They looked very impressed with him :) . Now this was a very good beginning of a new journey through an orchard full of cherries.
One of the orchard owner was a bike-enthusiast and wanted Aneesh to show him some specific stunts. Both of them used some stunt names and kept discussing for a long time. I was obviously getting bored in that discussion, until the owner offered a tour to the orchard and asked us to try different types of cherries. It seems that long time back, many varieties of cherries were imported to India and few of them worked really well. So Kotragh folks are mainly growing apples & cherries. There were different kinds of cherries in this orchards. We though that these are packaged differently to sell in different markets. But it seems that cherries are plucked in different phases and in each phase, some portions of a tree is used. Timing of the plucking cherries is one of the parameters to define quality.
While the orchard owner was sharing all these details, we were thinking about the experience to pluck. That was not really the time to pluck these as they wanted to wait for 2 more weeks to take out one round of cherries. There were some small sized cherries, which were being packed for markets around Shimla. One can see lot of cherry vendors on the highway but most of them sell the smaller versions of cherries from Thanedar & Kotgarh region.
The Cherry is an awesome fruit having fleshy drupe. Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries is in the summers. Cherry is being produced in very smaller regions of India and hardly people know that India is also one of the good producer of cherries. In Australia and New Zealand Cherries can be seen in late December, while in southern Europe the main season is June and it's same time for North America as well. When it comes to Christmas, people talk about cherries as well. You must also have noticed hanging cherries in traditional Christmas Tree.
Stella is one of the varieties of cherry which are grown in Kotgarh & Thanedar region of Himachal Pradesh. The Orchard owner allowed us to pluck few and he was generous enough to ask more & take home these special cherries. But we controlled out emotions and plucked few to enjoy them there :) ... It was one of the awesome experience of this whole Journey from Chandigarh to Kinnaur and back to Shimla. We made new friends and loved interacting with them on completely new stuff which we had never explored before.
This is the reason that we love Travelling and experiencing such special things which expose us to a very different dimension of life. It was not only about the Cherries and these orchards, but also about the culture of these hills and the way these folks think about these fruits. For us, these are mere fruit which can be bought anywhere but for them, growing best quality fruits is a passion and they are crazy about the year long process to maintain these orchards special for the world. I wish to visit Kotgarh again during Apple season and see how it looks in that season.