Kotgarh: The Apple bowl of India


Surrounded by picturesque villages, enticing apple orchards and dense forest cover, the quaint towns of Thanedar-Kotgarh are endowed with a unique old-world charm, pristine beauty, and crisp, clean air to tranquilize the soul. Kotgarh is famous for its apple orchards but very few know about the inspiring feature that makes an excellent spring-summer destination. Close to Narkanda, the hill range known as Kotgarh is just 16 kilometers from National highway that heads into the valley through Kumarsain, Rampur and Kinnaur and towards the Indo-Tibetan border. A branching spur breaking out from the Hatu peak Range that is splited by the fault line carved by the Satluj river, deep in the valley, makes up for what is known as the Kotgarh region.

History of Apple Cultivation

The first apple tree in this country was planted by Capt. R.C. Lee of the British army in the Kullu valley way back in 1870.The apples he planted were the Newton Pippins, King of Pippin and the Cox s Orange Pippin, but unfortunately because of their sour and tangy taste the cultivation of these English varieties was not undertaken by the local farmers. Indians, who were used to traditional fruits like mangoes wanted something sweeter.

Satyanand Stokes, the son of an American Businessman – Sameul Evans Stokes, settled in Kotgarh, Shimla. He believed in living a simple life and adopted the local lifestyle of the people living there. Apple was always grown in hills and this was the key idea for him.

It 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 these, rather than their usual crops of potato and plums.

Also, because they considered Samuel Evans Stokes as one of them, they sought his advice and he helped them achieve rich dividends with their harvest. Soon the demand for the Kotgarh apples sky-rocketed and orchards cropped up all over the valleys of what is today 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.