Did You Know Ladakh Is Home To The World’s Sweetest Apricots?
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Even the most brilliant photographs sometimes don’t do justice to Ladakh's landscape. Its bare and rugged terrain is stunning and most importantly unique. The mountain passes that entice biking enthusiasts from all over the world, ornate monasteries and traditional dresses that are worn with jewellery made from turquoise that match the colour of the lakes, all make this region in Northern India, incredibly special. Another jewel in Ladakh’s crown is its naturally sweet apricots. These Ladakhi apricots, locally called Raktsey Karpo are native to the cold desert region and renowned for their unique taste and high nutritional value. 

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The apricots are well-adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of Ladakh such as high altitude, low humidity, and extreme temperatures. Apricots have been grown in Ladakh for centuries. Many villages in Ladakh get their primary income from apricot farming, making it one of the most important cash crops in the region. Typically, apricots grow in the wild. Over the past 30-40 years they have been grown domestically too.

Over many generations, apricots were used in a local barter system. For example, people from Sham Valley (lower Indus) would trade apricots for woollen fabric, Nambu fabric and meat with the Changpas and for wheat and barley with farmers in the Upper Indus belt. It was also historically traded along the Silk Route with neighbouring countries like Tibet, Mongolia, and East Turkestan. 

Dried Apricots And Apricot Oil

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Apricots play a significant role in the local culture and economy of Ladakh. They are a staple in the Ladakhi diet and are used in various traditional dishes. The apricot tree also holds cultural significance, symbolisng prosperity and well-being. Ladakh produces several varieties of apricots, including edible ones such as  Halman, Rakchaikarpo, and Shakarpara that are either eaten fresh or dried. Some of these apricots are also used to extract apricot oil, which is highly valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties. The kernels of these apricots are crushed to produce the oil. 

The apricot harvesting season in Ladakh typically starts in July and lasts until September. A significant portion of the harvest is sun-dried with a traditional method that enhances and preserves the fruit's flavour and improves its shelf life. While the export of fresh apricots from Ladakh is currently difficult as there is a combination of geographical,  infrastructural, and logistical challenges, the focus is mainly on dried apricots. The dried apricots are then packed and sold in local markets or exported to other regions.

Health Benefits And How To Eat The Dried Apricots 

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In Ladakh, guests are welcomed with dried apricots especially during the harvesting season. Each dried apricot packs is both delicious and nutritious at the same time. It helps strengthenbones with calcium, aids good vision with Vitamin A and E, calms one down with magnesium and is also rich in iron and antioxidants. It’s compact and easy to carry as your all-time healthy snack. If you find yourself craving sugar bite into a dried apricot and you’ll be satiated for a long time. 

The dried apricot contains the kernel inside. The kernel contains an edible nut which is also quite delicious. You will need a heavy kitchen tool to crack open the kernel. The edible nut can be eaten by itself or used in granolas and trail mixes. Each apricot seed contains 5% fibre.

Dried apricots need to be stored in a cold and dry place, away from direct sunlight, moisture, and humidity. If you want to eat it the Ladakhi way, then you can try this traditional Ladakhi dessert recipe. Boil the apricots in water for about 30 minutes till the dried apricots fully soften. The result is sweet and tangy stewed apricots. To use dried apricots in tarts or pies it can also be simmered in wine or rum. 

Hardships Faced By Apricot Farmers To Market The Apricots

There are challenges that come with living in high-altitude, extreme weather conditions. For instance, Farmers actually go to the markets only in winter when there is no farm activity. This makes them over-dependent on middlemen, and especially vulnerable when it comes to negotiating prices. Few of them are able to bring their products to local markets but many of them have limited manpower to manage both household chores and outside trades.