The Great Himalayan Drive: Tabo’s Apples – The best in the world?

A monk at Tabo Monastery with the apple crop of the season
A monk at Tabo Monastery with the apple crop of the season

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Especially if you have the ones in Tabo.

But first, the miracle part: Tabo (read more here) is located in Spiti, one of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Tabo’s altitude is 3050 metres above sea level, and most of Spiti is higher than this in the Indian Himalayas. It falls in the rain shadow area, with very little precipitation, making it a cold desert. Winters are harsh, temperatures plummeting to 30 degrees Celsius below freezing, or even lower. All of Spiti is snow covered, cut off from the world for over six months. The Spiti river flows along the town, but it is a challenge hauling the water to the town located high up from the river bed.

But the lamas (Buddhist monks) of Tabo Monastery (http://tabomonastery.org/) (built in 996 A.D.) have shown some spunk by successfully growing apples in Tabo. And what apples! They are truly organic – absolutely no chemicals have been used at any stage. Not even to ripen them. What you get off the trees are ready to eat fruits. Just as they were meant to be when God made the world.

Locals claim to store these apples for even up to a year – but that is in the cold clime and pure air of the higher Himalayas. Don’t try this in the plains lower down. I munched a few and they were the tastiest and freshest I have ever had; they were from a lot just off the trees and were being packed. The contractors entrusted with the job warned me they were not ripe yet, but would be so by the time they reached Delhi. But the ones I had seem to have bloomed fully. They were also firmer and juicier than the more famed ones from Kullu and Manali, also in the same state of Himachal Pradesh.

Tabo’s apples are the last to ripen – must be to do with the weather cycles. They are fully red by first week of October – I was lucky to see most on the trees on October 7. Another week and they would be all harvested and gone. They were being packed in boxes branded ‘Kinnaur Apples.’ Kinnaur is another region in the same state known for high quality apples – but I felt Tabo should get its own branding. Just like Champagne and Darjeeling tea.

Apples are now grown by many other farmers besides the monastery; you can see the trees all over town. Contractors usually bid for the right to take the whole crop away. Each apple has a monetary value attached; don’t pluck any without permission.

The next time you plan a break, do so early October to Tabo for an apple feast.

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Spiti, Tabo, Apples

Spiti, Tabo, Apples

Spiti, Tabo, Apples

Apples at Tabo Monastery being supervised by a monk
Apples at Tabo Monastery being supervised by a monk

Tabo’s Apples: Packing in progress
Tabo’s Apples: Packing in progress
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13 COMMENTS

  1. we r in search of good quality apples all the tym last year we went to kinnour , ropa , poo , chango pls let me know how far we r u from the poo if we have to buy apples can help me in buying ….
    in wait for ur reply
    bawa fruit co.

    sandeep singh

  2. I grow new and heirloom varieties of apples in Utah, U.S.A.
    The apple in your photographs appears to be Red Delicious.
    Can you confirm this? One of your photographs shows a single
    branch with yellow apples. This is called a mutation, and it
    can be a valuable asset to the growers, if the quality of the
    mutation is good. You might suggest to the growers to take
    grafting wood from that limb, and propagate it. If they are not familiar with scion-grafting or bud-grafting, I can explain how to do it. Robert Fetzer

  3. i have see ur spitis (i.e tabo)photo album as i read u r an traveler writer r u interested to write about rohru (in shimla) himachal pradesh also a big name in the valley of apples in india.
    if yes
    u can call me +918010369891 (vickey chauhan)

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