Friday 30 November 2012

Roman beauty of Bangalore

An apple a day keeps the doctor away has been  a very popular saying. However, buying apples in Bangalore is expensive as they cost upwards of Rs. 120 per kilogram.
Bangaloreans are a fortunate lot as they can taste apples from Himachal Pradesh, China, Washington an even Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, these apples do not come cheap as they have to be imported into the city.
This is an ironical situation as Bangalore in the early years of the 20th century was known for its apples. Yes, apples grew here and they were plenty.
Apart from Whitefield and surrounding areas, many old time bungalows in Bangalore, particularly in Cantonment had apple trees.
Horticulturists and old-timers recall that a vary particular variety of apple was grown in Cox Town called Rome Beauty. These were sturdy varieties of apples but they fell prey to the growing urbanization of Bangalore and the changing climatic condition. These trees almost disappeared from the City’s landscape in the 1960s.
Now, you can see this apple only in Lalbagh. The officials of the Horticulture Department, which looks after Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, have planted ten apple trees of Rome Beauty near the Fern Garden in Lalbagh.
These trees require a cold climate to grow. They grow very well if the temperature is less than 13 degree Celsius. They need hundreds of hours of chill to mature.
Well, coming back to apples: Bangalore had several well-known orchards where apples were a prized tree. Most  of these apple gardens vanished around 1925.
The credit for making Bangalore an apple growing centre goes to the British. While the Cantonment catered to the military and civil needs of the British, many Anglo-Indians and British constructed houses in Whitefield where they planted several trees and plants native to England.
Since apples play a major part in an Englishman’s daily routine, the British wanted to introduce apples in Bangalore. James Cameroon, the Curator of Lalbagh, took the first tentative steps in 1887 to introduce apples.
Cameroon imported 17 varieties of apples to Bangalore from England and had them tested in Lalbagh. Out of the 17 varieties, only the Rome Beauty was found to be resilient and adaptive to Bangalore.
Cameroon then decided to introduce Rome Beauty to Bangalore. He ensured that a large number of seeds of this variety of apples were procured from England. These seed were then distributed to farmers and owners of estates in Bangalore and Whitefield.               
Cameroon was keen to ensure that Bangalore became a major apple growing centre and, therefore, distributed the apple seeds free of cost.
Local farmers and British plantation owners took to apple growing in a big way and by the turn of  the century (1900) and the early years of the 20th century, more than 1,000 acres of  land were exclusively growing apples.
The apple orchards came up around Palace Grounds called Upper and Lower Palace Orchards, Vasanthnagar, Whitefield and the soggy area between Konankunte and Kanakapura Road.
Initially, the apples were being grown for the Europeans who lives in and around Bangalore, Slowly, Indians too began to like the local variety of apple as against the apples imported from Jammu Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
The popularity of Bangalore apples grew as they were locally available and much cheaper.        
In those days, the apples had many takers because the ones from Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh would take several days to reach the south.
The apple orchards met a slow death for several reasons. The chill of Bangalore that attracted the British to Bangalore slowly began to disappear. Other varieties of crops made their entry into Bangalore displacing apples. Growing urbanization of the city and its hunger for land meant disappearance of orchards. The water bodies too vanished, depriving apples of a vital component. By the time India became Independent, the apples had practically vanished.
Today, apples are not grown in Bangalore. The only ones growing are in Lalbagh and at Hesarghatta.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Samyuktha
    This is Ayesha from Bangalore Mirror. Need to get in touch with you asap for a story on Bangalore Apples. Please email your contact number to