Chilgoza under threat


I read a report in the newspaper today that the tiny fruit chilgoza was under threat. I’d till now thought that chilgoza was a home-grown tree. My little Googling threw up results that it was a fruit of a pine native to the higher reaches of Himalayas.

Popularaly known as ‘neoza‘ in the hills, this fruit is again under threat, largely from man-made circumstances rather than the nature taking its own course. Unscientific extraction of the fruit and lopping of pine tree branches rampantly has brought down the production from aound 200,000 kg some 45 years ago, to less than half at 85,000 quintals. The fruit rich in carbohydrates and proteins sells anything between Rs 400 to Rs 800 per kg, depending on the quality.

The only good news here is that the government has taken steps to save chilgoza from extinction by planting about 50,000 chilgoza saplings in the forest areas of Kinnaur, Pangi and Bharmaur areas at an altitude ranging between 2000 mts and 3300 metres.

The tree was first brought into limelight by a 19th-century Scottish explorer and scientist Alexander Gerard.

I remember, last year, when one of my father’s colleague, who hails from Kinaur, retired from the Ministry of Law and Justice, his relatives and all were present during the farewell. He was felicitated by all of them with garlands of chilgoza, which he later distributed amongst his colleagues. This is just a simple example to show how much importance the little fruit holds in the lives of the local people. But alas, as the fruit gets scarce and the costs rise, we might find this fruit getting out of favour soon. Though never been to Kinnaur, I presume, the fruit must be finding favour for felicitation of dieties as well.

As a child, my mother always stopped me from over-eating the little fruit. “Garam hote hain yeh, zyaada mat kha,” she would warn me. And I’d wonder, “Itna chotta sa toh, kya garam hota hoga.

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A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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  1. I remember my father bringing “niyozas” for us whenever he would come back from Kinnour. We would put them in the pockets of our coats and would eat them up. My children have not eaten “niyozas” as I never thought of it but atleast they know it as a kind of fruit that comes from a species of pine trees. It is a wonderful sight to find young and old people collecting pine seeds from the roads when a strong wind detaches them from the safe enclosure of a pine cone! We collect them in haste and eat them at leisure.

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