Sunday, May 3, 2015


                                               ( Walnut on a tree Photo source Wikipedia )




Walnut is known as Doo’en-kul in Kashmiri. Indigenous to Kashmir, it grows in all places above 5000 feet from sea level up to an altitude of 8000 feet. The tree is propagated from seeds or grafting. A tree gives first fruit after 6 years and fully matures for fruit production after 12 years. The tree also attains great size and spread. Unfortunately, old and traditional methods are still employed in picking walnuts from a tree in Kashmir. A long stick called Laaenz in local parlance is employed to shake branches and the walnuts fall to the ground. Many accidents do take place every season during walnut picking season in Kashmir.

In Kashmir, we have three main varieties of walnuts; Kaagzi, Burzul and Wonth. The Wonth variety is hard with more of a hard shell and very little of the kernel. It is a wild variety and is not a commercial cash crop. Other two varieties are marketed and grown mainly in Kupwara and Shopian belts although every area in the Kashmir valley has walnut trees. I have also seen a good variety of walnuts in Banihaal area of Jammu province. Otherwise, walnuts from Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Poonch, Rajouri and Bani from Jammu province fall mostly in Wonth category.

 Even though walnut is a protected tree, its unauthorized felling by unscrupulous persons has not stopped. The wood of this tree is termite resistant, dark and hard and as such very expensive. The walnut wood carving industry of Kashmir depends on this tree. The bark of this tree was used for cleaning teeth and gums and known as Dandaasa.

 Due to the presence of antioxidants and its " bad cholesterol" reducing properties, walnut demand has shown a spurt over the years. Accordingly, the prices of Walnuts have skyrocketed to about 500 to 600 rupees per kg with kernel selling at Rs1200 to Rs1400 per kg in the domestic market. Enough needs to be done for the survival of the walnut industry in Kashmir as China, Iran, USA, Turkey, Mexico and even a small country like Ukraine ( 1 lakh Tonnes production annually )are far ahead in grading, preservation and export of quality walnut in the world market. According to reliable sources, Kashmir produces about 35000 to 40000 tonnes of walnut annually which is about 95% of total walnut production of the country. The domestic demand for walnuts is likely to shoot up to 80000 tonnes per annum by 2022. Based on this survey, states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh have already started fresh plantation of high-quality walnut trees. Much needs to be done in the J& state.

 Dependent on valley’s crop, most of the grading and walnut export cum Trading units are presently located in Jammu wherefrom the walnut kernel is exported to Europe the US. This Kernel is generally used in Bakery and confectionery.

 Kashmiri Pandits also use soaked walnuts during Shivratri Puja They also send soaked walnuts to their married daughters during Shivratri celebrations apart from distributing them amongst friends, relations and neighbours. Soaked walnuts are also used in Kalash Pooja during marriage functions and Homas ( Hawans ) by Kashmiri Pandits.

 In 1988, I met a Kashmiri Brahman in Mattan, Kashmir, who informed me that during the 19th century, walnut shell or tree Bark ink was also used in drawing sketches and images by priests who prepared almanacks (Jantri), horoscopes (Zaataks) and wrote religious texts.

 The well Turkish poet,  Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963 )  has also written a beautiful poem titled  “Walnut Tree” . Loved by all Turks but persecuted for decades by the then Turkish establishment, Nazim Hikmet lived an exile’s life. He died in Russia and lies buried in Moscow. Here is the poem:-

(Walnut Tree)

My head foaming clouds, 
 sea inside me and out
 I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park
 an old walnut, knot by knot, shred by shred
 Neither you are aware of this, nor the police
 I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park
 My leaves are nimble, nimble like fish in the water
 My leaves are sheer, sheer like a silk handkerchief
 pick, wipe, my rose, the tear from your eyes
 My leaves are my hands, I have one hundred thousand
 I touch you with one hundred thousand hands, I touch Istanbul
 My leaves are my eyes, I look in amazement
 I watch you with one hundred thousand eyes, I watch Istanbul
 Like one hundred thousand hearts, beat ,beat my leaves
 I am a walnut tree in Gulhane Park
 neither you are aware of this, nor the police”



The almond tree is known as Badaam-Kul in Kashmiri. Almonds grow ideally on Karewas ( plateaus ) in Kashmir although these also grow everywhere in the Kashmir valley up to an altitude of 7000 feet from sea level. The Kashmir valley had many large almond fields on Damodar Karewas ( plateaus ) near the present airport. Almonds are also grown in Traal, Kunzar ( Tangarg ), Pampore, Ranbirpora ( Mattan Karewa ) and many other areas in Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Budgaam districts of Kashmir. I also saw an almond orchard close to the ruins on Parihaaspura Karewa ( plateau ).

 The oldest almond field close to the Srinagar city happens to be Badaam-vaari near Hari Parbat. Lately, a well laid out garden with flower beds and pathways has been developed in this almond orchard. The place was visited by Kashmiris for the last many centuries to see almond blooms and welcome Spring season. Known as Soant ( spring ) festival, a Mela was held in Badaam-vaari garden wherein people from all walks of life participated. 

An almond tree gives fine blooms in early spring and the crop matures in September / October. The Kashmiri almond tree does not ordinarily grow beyond 15 feet in height although I saw some trees as high as 25 feet and these could be noticeable exceptions. An almond tree matures for production after 6 to 7 years after being planted. It needs a Mediterranean type of climate.

The almond fruit consists of an outer hull, hard shell and soft oily edible seed. Sometimes the hard shell has two seeds. The seed is used for bakery, confectionery and eaten raw or after being fried and salted.
 Unfortunately, Kashmir almond industry is still primitive and dependent on nature whereas, in the US, it is highly mechanized. The orchards in Kashmir are more than 50 years old and need a scientific rejuvenation. Kashmir almond tree is also attacked by insects and parasites.

 The American variety, known as Californian almond has captured the entire world market. The Kashmiri almond meets mostly domestic demand in the valley and is traded mostly in Jammu, Delhi and Amritsar and some other cities.
 Smaller in size, the Kashmir almond kernel is sweet and oily. Lately, grading has also been started for the Kashmir almonds to improve its marketing. We now have something called 'one tree almonds ' that belong to one tree and have similar shape and size.

In Amritsar dry fruit Mandi, I found almonds from Afghanistan and Iran being traded along with Kashmir and Californian almonds. The almonds coming from Iran and Afghanistan are known as Mamra and Gurlbandi respectively.

 The Burzul ( known as Kaagzi outside Kashmir ) variety of Kashmir almonds is used for consumption while the bitter variety that has a hard shell and bitter seed/kernel is used for extracting oil .

 Like Walnuts, almond grading and breaking units are also located in Jammu wherefrom kernel is marketed. The present price of the quality almond kernel of Kashmir is Rs1000 to Rs 1200 per kg.
 Crushed almonds are an important ingredient of famous Kashmiri Kehwa tea. 

Almonds are a good source of potassium, minerals, and vitamin E. Almonds are believed to be having bad cholesterol-reducing properties.

Almond finds extensive mention in poetry across the languages. Some poets have compared it with the beautiful eyes of the beloved. It has also been used in Kashmiri poetry to describe beauty. This is how modern Kashmiri poet Dina Nath Nadim uses word Badaam (almond) in his poetry:-

“Aadunuk badaam hue,
Maaji hundh momm daam hue
Gaam pythaa yetchkael vothhumut 
Treil hyathh zunn maam hue,
Assi wattan rut gaam hue.”

( Like the fresh almond fruit of the season,
 For an infant, like a mouthful of mother’s breast milk,
Like the maternal uncle, after a long time,
 bringing Treil ( crab apple )
from his village orchard,
This Kashmir,
Our native land is like a beautiful village .)


                                              ( Almond Fruit    )

( Avtar Mota )

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1 comment:

  1. Walnut kernals are potent for Health.So eat it in bulky......


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