Kinnaur is breathtakingly beautiful. Crisp sunlight bathes the far away mountains and fluffy clouds golden. You’re immediately thrown into a reverie about being a magical place. When you bite into one of their juicy, sweet apples, the reverie only seems to get longer.
Welcome to Kalpa, Kinnaur
Imagine being able to look up at the magnificent mountain range everyday, close enough to touch. Kalpa a remote, ancient village in Himachal Pradesh, is located at the base of the majestic Kinnar Kailash, the winter home of Lord Shiva. Situated at an altitude of almost 3000 metres, in the Sutlej river valley, Kalpa is famous for apple orchards and pinenuts or chilgozas.
It is also home to extreme weather conditions during winter, as much as 5-7 feet of heavy snow; so much so that despite it being the district headquarters of Kinnaur for some years, the offices were shifted due to inaccessibility. The village is equipped with a post office, hospital, shops, small guest houses, restaurants, peace, orchards of apple, apricot and dense forests of pine and deodar.
Welcome to Kalpa, from where I Say Organic sources your organic apples.
Why Kinnaur apples are famous
Grown at a height of 9710 ft above sea level, Kinnaur apples are juicy, sweet and last really really long. Every bite is sharp, and you can literally taste the difference. Apples from this region are known to have a thicker skin, which helps in better shelf life of the apple. Figures ranging from 3 to 8 months are bandied about, depending on how you store them.
A farmer shyly explains, “Sometimes there are slight black marks on the apple’s skin – these might be the result of hail stones or other natural factors. But this is a good sign and shows that the apples are 100% organic – no tampering or chemicals sprays have been used on them to make them artificially look better.”
How it grows
Six months of the year, November to April, Kinnaur is covered in snow. The land is left fallow, and allowed to rest it renews itself. Because of the snow, the soil is naturally ‘burned’ at sub zero temperatures leaving soil rested to nurture better yields and healthy crops.
In Kinnaur, to prepare the soil for a new crop, farmers first sow nitrogen-fixing plants like rajma and buckwheat. These refresh the soil, and provide additional crops for the farmers’ subsistence. Traditionally people in Kinnaur would use buckwheat instead of wheat to make rotis and dosas.
Farmers begin preparing the apple trees in April for the new year’s crop. June, July and August are crucial months for the orchards. Careful pest management, pruning and weeding is done by farmers to protect their apple trees and ensure bountiful harvests by end of September.
Organic for years
Farmers in Kinnaur’s organic community will tell you that their land has never been touched by chemicals or sprays. They’ve always used traditional farming methods to keep the land fertile. But after they came across literature by Dr R S Minhas, they have gone about it in a much more targeted way. They now use neem cakes and spray neem oil to keep pests and insects away.
Vermicompost pits have been built with governmental subsidies and these help make organic fertiliser for the apple trees, as do natural products like cow urine and cow dung. They also use jaivik khad or organic fertilisers, mixed liberally into dug-up soil around the circumference of the tree.
Being organic is more labour intensive, quite simply because if a tree has pests, weeds or catches a bug, farmers have to physically dig up the soil or pluck and remove the infected parts. It’s a lot of hard work and there are no shortcuts. But the farmers passionately believe that they’re labouring not just for your good, but their own too.
Why do Kinnaur apples cost more
Traditionally, in India, by May, there are no apples in the market. Apples from the Himanchal and Uttarakhand regions are harvested around June or July, apples from Shimla and Kullu are in by August and from then on, the market is flooded with options, causing the price to rise sharply and then settle. By October, when Kinnaur’s organic apples are finally harvested, after a natural ripening process that ensures true colour and sheen, the market is no longer paying a premium.
I Say Organic practices a fair pricing policy that averages out the highest and lowest prices in a bid to offer farmers a financial incentive to keep staying organic. We do not want farmers to choose between making a living and going organic. What’s more, the associated transportation cost for relatively lower quantities of organic food is always higher than larger quantities of chemical-laden food, over longer distances.
Why I Say Organic chose Kinnaur apples
We believe sourcing a product from the area where it grows naturally or is native to, offers us and the farmers, the biggest advantage. We prefer avoiding hybrid varieties as they are developed for convenience rather than health, and are meant to grow anywhere, but require more nourishing, which might come in the form of chemical manure, pesticides and fertilizers.
This is also why I Say Organic adds on products slower – we follow a strict process which involves trying to source from the best place, assess best practices, look at certification and then start off the journey of bringing you the best organic produce.
It’s time for you to take the next step, order these Organic Apples for you and your family and stay healthy this winter season.