In Nepal, the harvesting of the Timur berry has begun!
During September, we set off to meet a group of Timur berry pickers. After a long journey through the Himalayan mountain range, we were privileged to be able take part in the harvest of this Nepalese endemic berry which grows in the wild along the Mahabharat range.
The Timur berry grows on the Zanthoxylum armatum, a thorny shrub which grows at altitudes of around 2,500 metres. It takes about 3 to 5 years and the expertise of the local villagers for the shrub to flourish and produce its first berries. It produces between 20 and 30kgs of dry Timur berries each year. The berries are harvested when fully ripe, when they turn a sharp red colour like the flesh of a blood orange.
The Timur berry harvest starts mid-September and lasts about 3 weeks on average. The thorns on the bush make the task long and difficult. The local women pick the berries because they are more agile, climbing inside the shrub to reach the highest branches without breaking them.
Once the harvest is complete, the berries are laid out on the terraces to dry facing the valley. The water contained in the berries evaporates with the heat of the sun. The pericarp opens revealing a black seed. This drying phase lasts one week.
The Timur berries are then sorted by hand with the help of bamboo sieves. The pericarp is separated from the branches, leaves, thorns and black seeds which give a bitter taste. Only the very ripe berries are kept.
After all these stages, the berries are taken to the valley by the villagers. The bad road conditions mean they have to walk for several hours to reach the mountain base.
“This berry plays an important role in the local traditions and the local economy”
The families who live in this region are virtually self-sufficient. As well as breeding goats, cows and chickens, they use every part of land available to grow their food: corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, chilli pepper, potatoes, cardamom and other vegetables and rhizomes.
Farming is based on the rationale of permaculture: each species is grown on a small piece of land yet all close together and leaving nature play a large part in the growth of the plants. This is part of the local tradition, and is a clear necessity to get the most from the steep mountain slopes.
The sale of the Timur berries provides additional income for the local families, enabling them to buy what they do not produce themselves (clothes, utensils, solar panels, etc..). The berry plays a major role in the local economy.
“A truly unique flavour of fresh grapefruit”
Each family owns about 15 Timur trees. They use the berries in their everyday cooking. Dried or fresh, it is also widely used in delicious chutneys which give intense yet fresh notes to dal baht (rice with lentils), the Nepalese national dish which is eaten twice a day by 22 million Nepalese people. Timur berries also enhance a compote of nettle leaves and add citrus aromas to the local tea.
Find Timur berry in our online shop: