One may have probably tried sowing the seeds of Kashmir apples bought from the market at their kitchen gardens, but the fact is that they usually do not take root. However, here is a story of the now famous ‘Saramati Apple, Thanamir Village’ and how it began.
According to Dr. Sao Tunyi, CHC Pungro, Limasenla Yaden, NMM missionary teacher, Thanamir village and Chingjam Phom, NMM missionary teacher, Thanamir village it was during armed conflict years some Indian soldiers were killed by the Naga army and in response, a curfew was imposed and a check post was also set up at Thanamir village.
J. Yungbokhiung, a village guard and village council member befriended a Nepali Naik of the Assam Rifles posted at the check gate. In 1981 the Naik gifted him a Kashmir apple with the instructions to carefully plant it and to keep animals away; it was an assurance that it will one day be a source of blessing to many.
Out of three seeds he had planted, one germinated producing the sweetest and the juiciest apples in Nagaland and arguably at par with the best quality apples in the Indian market. The first tree started to bear fruit in 1984 and it remains to this day. Only the main trunk remains while the upper half had to be cut off due to electric wires overhead. Nevertheless branches shooting off from the original trunk continue to bear fruit.
Yungbokhiung taught himself the art of root grafting and it was in the same year when his first apple tree started to bear fruit (1984) he gifted 9 others saplings from root grafts.
That was how Thanamir apple started to spread to other people and villages. Thanks to the effort of Thanamir Village Council which has made it mandatory for every household to have an apple tree, some families now own as much as 50 trees.
Grafting is done in June-July. Several saplings sprouting from a root graft are allowed to grow as such for a year and are separated and replanted the next year. In 2 years, the new graft plants start to bear fruit. Flowering takes place in March-April and the fruit ripens in the later part of August and September.
To date, no chemicals are used for growing the saplings or to ripen the fruits. Worm infestations occur on the main trunk shortening its lifespan, but the fruits are free of any worms or other infestations.
The villagers have been enjoying the apples, fresh from the backyard orchards but have not enjoyed significant commercial returns to date. Apples have been used in three ways: eaten raw, boiled, or as juice which tastes ‘stronger than wine’.
Tangit Longkumer, a missionary of the Nagaland Missions Movement (NMM) based at Pungro town has been working tirelessly, promoting “Saramati Apple, Thanamir Village”, the trademark phrase he came up with. He designed stickers, pasted them on the apples and gifted the government officials at Kohima and Dimapur in 2009. The upcoming ‘Apple Festival’ at Thanamir on August 31 is the result of his effort.
Thanamir village is blessed with double blessings in the form of apples and the Mt. Saramati. It is the last village en-route Saramati peak where trekkers halt for the night at Thanamir. Trekkers are provided guides and guards by the villagers.
Although it is the last village of Nagaland in the international border with accessibility complex, there is hope for the people of Thanamir. Likewise, for villages located at all the remote corners of Nagaland, where resources and means for socioeconomic development lay untapped, Thanamir’s is the way to go.