Washington Apple Country History


"Who has not heard of the vale of Cashmere,
With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave,
Its temples, and grottos, and fountains as clear,
As the love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave."

--from "Lalla Rookh," 1817

Sir Thomas Moore began composing his epic poem, Lalla Rookh, in 1812. Its prose structure narrates the journey of Princess Lalla Rookh from Delhi to Kashmir, where she is to wed the King of Bucharia whom she has never met. Reminiscent of the tales of the Arabian Nights, Moore's oriental drama sweeps across this exotic locale, rendering fantasy, adventure and romance into each of the four separate and complete cantos which comprise the narrative. "Lalla Rookh" was published in May, 1817, and became an immediate bestseller: a second edition was required within three days, a sixth by the close of that year. Its fabled setting, the Vale of Kashmir, has since continued to inspire the creative imaginations of scores of artists, dramatists and composers.

One of the most resplendent and fecund regions in the Wenatchee Valley, the city of Cashmere lies nestled among the foothills of the Cascade mountains, near to the geographic center of Washington state. Named after the Vale of Kashmir, which is located in the heart of the northern most province on the Indian sub-continent, Cashmere has much in common with its namesake halfway around the globe.

Both population centers are surrounded by mountains which contain abundant fir trees and pine forests. To the north and west of the Vale, the commanding peaks of the Himalayas dominate the landscape. Two of the tallest mountains in the world can be found in the expansive Karakorum Range of northern Kashmir: Mount Godwin Austen, sometimes called K2, which rises to more than 28,000 feet, and Mount Nanga Parbat, equally magnificent at 26,650 feet. To the east of the Vale lies the Pir Panjal mountain range. Ensconced beneath these palisades, with the Jhelum River gently meandering through its glen, the Vale of Kashmir is blessed with both a temperate climate and natural water source. This makes for substantive cultivation of the land, and Kashmir today supports an eclectic staple of crops ranging from corn to wheat to rice. The very fine and rare spice, saffron, is culled from the stigma threads of crocus flowers which are specially grown in the vale.

Kashmir is also home to India's domestic and commercial apple industry, producing almost one million metric tons per year. Most Kashmiris work the land; others are engaged in small industries, making shawls, rugs and carpets. Kashmir is as famous for its wool as for its environmental paradise.