The Most Famous Orchard in Tajikistan

How does Mirzasho Akobirov produce 52 different types of apples, 37 varieties of pears, and more? TLC.

By Joe Schottenfeld in Atlas Obscura, photos by Tim Brown // April 13, 2016

Mirzasho Akobirov is reclining comfortably on a cold, jagged rock as though he had stumbled upon a chaise lounge. Propped up on an elbow, he is silhouetted by a quickly setting sun on a cold evening in early March.

Akobirov, who is 56, occasionally gestures behind him towards Jafr, the village where he was born and still lives, and the Rasht Valley, a wide stretch of land in northeastern Tajikistan that extends up towards the Kyrgyz border. It is in that valley that Akobirov spends most of his time, cultivating and grooming his botanical garden.

Akobirov’s neighbors in Jafr have orchards typical of the Rasht Valley: a few apple and pear trees, and perhaps an apricot or peach tree. Akobirov’s orchard is different. According to him, the lush plot of perhaps four or five acres produces 52 different types of apples, 37 varieties of pears, and 24 kinds of apricots, as well as peaches, black mulberries, white mulberries, walnuts, and an assortment of cherries.

The garden has made him famous throughout the valley and, to a certain extent, beyond: praising his orchard’s fruit, Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rahmon, once called him the country’s best orchard keeper.

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We interrupt our pre-Halloween programming to wish everyone a most happy National Nut Day. This is a day to celebrate the kind of nuts you eat, not the kind you work with. These nutty images are from Nut Culture in the United States, Embracing Native and Introduced Species (1896). This work was published by the United States Division of Pomology, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture founded in 1885 to share information about burgeoning fruit and nut varieties with farmers and horticulturists. To that end the department commissioned thousands of watercolors, some of which, like these two, were reproduced in their official publications. The complete collection of watercolors is held at the National Agriculture Library.



Green Apple on a branch, Apples with leaves, Wild Apple, Sweet Crab, Flowering Crab Apple, Southern Crab Apple, Varieties of Apple, Red and Green Apples.

Taken from ‘Traité des Arbres et Arbustes que l'on Cultive en France en Pleine Terre.’ Published Paris 1801 - 1819. Illustrations by P. Bessa and Pierre Joseph Redouté.

Image and text courtesy NYPL Digital Collection.