Production and handling of Apricot in Gilgit-Baltistan
Gilgit-Baltisan is one of the most beautiful regions of Pakistan. Nature has gifted this region with immense beauty and blessings including highest peaks, lakes, and largest glaciers, rivers and variety of fruits. One of the most precious gifts by Allah is the blessing of apricot, which is the major fruit among the variety of fruits in Gilgit Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltisan is the largest apricot producing region in Pakistan.
Brief Introduction to Apricot:
Although the native of the fruit remains vague, apricot has a long and interesting history. It is generally believed that the origins of apricot are in China, where the fruit has been cultivated for food as well as for its therapeutic properties for more than 4,000 years. The apricot tree has also been grown in neighboring India and Tibet since times immemorial. According to ancient records, the Hunzas, who inhabited the Himalayan Mountains in the northern regions of present-day Pakistan and were acknowledged for their vigor and long life span, cultivated and treasured apricot for its aptitude to foster health for more than 1500 years. Even the Greek physicians valued apricot as a food medication, while the Romans offered the fruit to Venus, their Goddess of Love. Apricot was brought in Europe during the reign of the Alexander the Great. In the Middle East nations, the fruit is very popular and valued for its pleasant flavor as well as its stimulating aroma.
Apricots not only taste good, they are also packed with good nutrients! Some of the nutrients found in apricots include: vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and potassium, which can help to protect your eyes and heart as well as your digestive system. Dried apricots are an excellent source of iron.
Apricot as a major fruit in Gilgit Baltistan
In Northern Area, apricots along with other deciduous fruits are primarily produced as cash crop where majority of families grow apricot. Average household had 28 trees of which 9 were bearing fruits and producing 750 kg of apricot per annum (GOP, 1989).The practice of planting seeds from the best trees over an extended period of time has resulted in an incredible amount of variation. Many years ago, the farmers did learn to graft so now hence, in each village in addition to seedling trees, one would find many favorite local cultivars.
Purpose of apricot production
Fruits have mainly been produced to meet annual family needs for dry fruit particularly during severe winter. Among all respondents 86% ranked apricot as their most preferred fruit tree. Because apricot would meet most of their subsistence needs. Dried apricot and kernels are main dry fruits for winter. Most fuel wood is obtained from apricot trees. Oil from kernels is obtained for various domestic uses. Cracked kernel shells are also used as fuel.
Production of apricot per year
According to the UN-PK/FAO/2003 survey report, Northern areas produce about 170680 tons fruits per year; apricot alone contributes 107737 tons (UN-PK-FAO. 2003).
Earning from apricot
40% of the rural households would annually earn between Rs.5000 – 6000 from apricot and its by-product in Northern Area. A farmer would often have as few as two or three trees of the same cultivar mixed with other.
In several villages survey showed 180 different cultivars as a sample of variation that existed in the region. Now we are going to discuss some local cultivars of different regions of Gilgit Baltistan.
Name of some local cultivars in Baltistan Region:
Apricot varieties of Baltistan i.e. Halmand, Wahphochuli, Lonakpochuli, Sherakarpochuli
Shakhanda, Margulam, Karpochuli, Ambah, Staachuli, Khochuli, Brochuli .
Name of some local cultivars in Gilgit region.
Names of some local cultivars of Gilgit region are dugli, neeli, bedeiri, chalpachu, loli, frugui, khormagui, alishah kakas etc.
Margulam halmon and kachachuli
In Baltistan, ‘Margulam’ was prized as a fresh fruit for its juiciness, sweetness, and fine flavor, whereas ‘Halmon’ was the best for drying due to its high soluble solids and rapid drying characteristic. ‘Kachachuli’ was unique too, although the fruit had relatively high soluble solids, the flesh reaches a moderate degree of firmness and did not soften further with age hence, its’ local name actually said, ‘apricot that doesn’t ripen’. ‘Kachachuli’ is grown mainly for its large edible seed.
Alishah kakas and dugli
In Hunza, one of the larger fruited cultivars had outstanding quality for both fresh as well as dry use, with high soluble solids, pronounced aroma, and rich flavor. ‘Alishah Kakas’ was another favorite in Hunza because of its exceptionally high soluble solids, fine quality and firm texture making it suitable for shipping fresh and excellent for drying.In Ghizer another cultivar ‘dugli’ is best because it has two edible kernels inside the fruit and the fruit has larger size.
Blossoming time of apricot
Most apricot cultivars blossom in early March. The blossoming time is about a fortnight and may be prolonged or shortened by the presence or absence of cold spell. Considerable variation is also shown by different cultivars in their blossoming habits. The incidence of frost during March is common and considerable damage to apricot crop is annually experienced.
Maturity time and color of some cultivars.
|Variety||Natural color||Maturity time|
|Helmand||Bright red||End July-August|
|Lonakpochuli||Light red||Early August-Mid September|
|Sherakarpochuli||White||Early July-Mid August|
|Brochuli||Light yellow||Mid-August-Mid October|
Moisture content of all apricot cultivars in baltistan:
Moisture content of all apricot varieties in baltistan region is 18-20%.
Harvesting of apricot using local method:
Traditionally, apricots are harvested by shaking branches and letting fruit fall to the ground. This practice is common in all the areas Gilgit Baltistan which involves shaking the trees and letting the fruit fall to the ground, results in damaged and dirty fruit. In order to reduce damage, fruit can collect in outspread sheets held above ground level.
Picking of apricot
The apricots are picked by hand and placed carefully in a basket. Then these fruits are freshly consumed or it is dried to produce dried apricot. Now we are going to discuss local drying method of apricot.
Local drying method of apricot
First of all for drying, apricot fruit is spitted into two pieces and the kernels removed and separating the flesh with hands. The pits are then cracked to obtain the kernel. The two halves should be separated. This produces a more attractive product than when the two halves are left connected. Their kernels can be either consumed or converted into cooking oil.
Sulphuring of apricot
Sulphurdioxide is normally added to the fruit as a preservative and to give the dried product a brighter orange color. Sulphur fumigation is a hygienic, low-cost preservation technique that maintains color of the food. The sulphur dioxide can either be added by dipping the apricots in a solution of sodium metabisulphite (sulphiting) or by placing the fruit in a chamber in which sulphur is burnt (sulphuring). Adding sodium metabisulphite can help to preserve the color, although there are strict limits to the amount to add.
Drying of apricot
The methods of drying apricots vary from simple sun drying through solar drying to large-scale artificial dryers. The traditional sun drying of apricots involves making thin slices of the fruit and placing it on flat rocks for approximately six to nine days. This produces a dried fruit with an uneven dark brown colour and a tough, texture. Sun drying produces a dried apricot with a more desirable colour than artificial drying. Then these dried apricots are consumed by the people especially in winter season.
Apricots are not only used as dry fruits but it is also used for many purposes, some of them are as follows.
It is also used to produce jams. The kernel of apricot is used to produce oil (local name ‘chulimaar’) which is used for cooking purposes. Kernels of apricot fruits are also used to prepare local dishes. Names of some local dishes in baltistan are ‘zhamik’ ‘prapu’ etc.
Therefore it is concluded that there is considerable scope to introduce new cultivars with extended shelf life and successive ripening sequence over the season to extend the apricot marketing down to big commercial centers. It is reported that about 60 apricot varieties in Northern Area where Halman, Karfochuli, Marghulam and Sharakarfa were the prime. The apricot is a nutritional fruit which provides us essential nutrients that helps to invigorate our body. Therefore government should take proper steps to produce new apricot cultivars with best drying characters or with increased shelf life to provide fresh apricot fruits to the other provinces of Pakistan, and to increase income to make better the standard of living of the people of Gilgit Baltistan.
B.Sc. (Hons) Agricultural Sciences,
Center of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology (CABB),
University of Agriculture Faisalabad.
Cell #: 03438822992
Mubashir Abbas*, Manzoor ul Hassan1, Syed Ikram Ali Shah2
Author * Center of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology (CABB), University of Agriculture Faisalabad
1 Co-Author, Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad
2 Co- Author, Center of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad