Tuesday 31 December 2013

When Bangaloreans relished Roman Beauty

Two days ago, there was an article in Deccan Herald about how apples in Bangalore have made a comeback and how the first harvest of apples are being harvested in Lalbagh.
Bangalore had never grown apples and the credit for introducing this fruit must go to the British, particularly the Superintendents who tended to Lalbagh.
Apple was one of the many temperate fruits brought to Bangalore mainly to sustain the demand for such items from European civil and military officials.
The demand for apples and other English and European fruits and vegetables had their beginnings in the establishment of the Cantonment in Bangalore in 1804.
The British had decided to pull our their troops from Srirangapatna as they were unable to face the mosquitoes. They choose Bangalore as their spot for setting up the biggest Cantonment n south India
The then Governor-General, Wellesley had asked several botanists and naturalists, including Benjamin Heyne, whop was employed in the Madras Government to take over Lalbagh in 1800 and introduce crops, including fruits and vegetables palatable to the British.
Thus was born the first experiment in India to grow alien crops and this started in 1800 and continued till 1807. Apple was one such fruit. Heyne also introduced cocoa, durian, clove, nutmeg and mangosteen and the fist saplings of these were planted in the Lalbagh.
By 1820, apples were popular in Lalbagh. In the same year, John Sullivan, the Collector of Coimbatore, sent a few Apple saplings to Arthur Hope, the British Resident in Bangalore in 1820.
In 1880, the Superintendent of Lalbagh, John Cameron, introduced Rome beauty Apple to Lalbagh. He actually imported seventeen varieties of apples and grew them in Lalbagh. Of them, he found the Roman Beauty the best to grow in Bangalore. He then introduced the Apple to other parts of Bangalore and its surroundings such as Whitefield.
The seeds of Roman Beauty were then distributed to farmers and owners of estates in Bangalore and Whitefield.. Slowly, the cultivation of Apple became popular and it soon became a commercial crop.
Cameron also introduced a variety of fruits and vegetables in Bangalore, including chow chow, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, radish, carrot, garden peas, turnips, rhubarb. Another Superintendent of Lalbagh, Gustav Krumbiegal, introduced Italian olives, Araucarias from Tasmania, and even caraway from France.
Krumbeigel took a series of steps to made the Apple a commercially viable and lucrative crop. 

By the 1920s, Bangalore’s Apple were named Roman Beauty and they had a unique taste. These Apples were grown in more than a thousand acres in and around Bangalore. It was very popular among Bangaloreans and it was sold in the neighbouring districts too. 
Compared to their counterparts in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, the apples from Namma Bangalore were priced cheap and they had their own taste. Bangaloreans relished it and even the Maharaja of Mysore planted scores of apple trees in what is today Lower Palace orchard, Upper Palace Orchard and Vasanthnagar. 
Several British bungalows and big houses of native Indians, as they were called, had trees that gave these Roman Beauties. People of all walks of life, including the British and large number of foreigners, relished them.
However, the change in the climate, growing urbanisation and depletion of the green cover sounded the death knell for the apples. A disease quickly spread among the apple trees and soon they became history. 

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