Chitralis live in Gardens
Life in the villages and hamlets of Chital from north to south and from east to west is conspicuous for fruit tree gardens and these gardens are an inevitable part of the culture of Chitral especially in the Kho dominated parts that make almost 95 % of the total area. Why they prefer to live in gardens ? may be a question for a number o f skeptics as in the nearby communities they don’t have this aspect of social life. The Kho live in gardens because their forefathers had developed that culture from the time the Kho had settled in Chitral and had bethought of supplementing their food supply by fresh and dry fruits.
The streams and springs in almost all parts of Chitral supply water to the irrigated plots and the fruit trees fructify abundantly which was diligently collected by all members of each family and then dried in various ways and then stored for winters. This organic food was used in good quantity and shared with the less fortunate ones. The culture developed and spread all over the area and the soil of different areas proved very suitable or less suitable for certain fruits. For example Mulkho region with better sun heat is famous for grapes of numerous varieties while Torkho valley is famous for pears of a number of varieties. The fresh fruit was then sent as gift to relatives but the dried ones were also sent in winters. The Mastuj valley is also famous for apples and mulberries .The latter is mostly dried and used in winters with walnut kernel- a highly delicious food and considered a tonic for a number of diseases. In the Kuh and lower Chitral pomegranates are also grown in good number but not on scientific basis but on the old methods. The Lotkuh valley is also famous for apricots and cherries now shifting to vegetables.
For all these fruit products the people had to dig water channels from the streams and fruit plantations grew on barren lands with the passage of time. Some liked apricots, others apples or pears or mulberries or walnuts so there was always an abundance of these fruits , both fresh and dried, in all parts of Chitral up to ten thousand feet height. The drying of fruits was a necessity for various reasons as they had got the only technology of drying fruit but no other product was made as techniques were not known to the mountain men of the high lands of Hindu Kush.
In Chitral our ancestors grew apricots, apples, pears, plums, grapes, walnuts, Russian olive, fig, pomegranates, old variety of cherries etc. Some fruit trees reached Chitral like parsiman, after 1968 when the department of agriculture had an able officer with guts to take initiatives in his department, brought some new varieties such as varieties of apples, seedless grapes as well as some wild plants to be sown in drier waste lands. The fruit trees now can be increased such as almonds and cherries and strawberries that Agriculture department has to take up the task with better plug and guts. We want more fruits and have the will to go ahead in this field. All the families have fruit trees around their houses and plant more saplings each season. Cutting of a fruit tree is considered in Chitral as murder of one’s child- so consider our love of fruit trees. Every household weather rich or poor has got a number of fruit trees around its house and they look after the trees regularly. This is a unique part of our culture. Horticulture has a wide scope in Chitral for our future.
Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig