Kyrgyzstan is known for its unique relict walnut forests, which are located in the lower reaches of the Fergana and Chatkal mountain ranges at an altitude of about 1,000-2,000 metres above sea level. Walnut forests mainly grow in Jalal-Abad oblast, and here alone walnut forests make up 32,000 hectares.
Today we’re taking a trip to the relict forests of Arstanbap
The area of Arstanbap forestry is over 3,600 hectares, and refers to the Bazar-Korgon district of Jalal-Abad oblast. Walnut forests are not tended. Neither the forest users nor the forest management carries out cutting, irrigation, fertilization or chemical disinfestation activities there. They can only plant seedlings, maintain natural regeneration through fencing and biological insect control.
Therefore, nuts harvested under these conditions are totally natural, ecologically pure and considered ‘wild’.
Wild nuts are generally smaller in size than cultivated varieties.
The uniqueness of the product lies in
its rich buttery
iodine content, as well as
in the varying size and colour of the kernel
The oiliness of wild nuts from the forests of Jalal-Abad oblast is an average of 10-15% higher than that of cultivated nuts in other countries of the world.
The annual harvest of walnuts varies greatly from year to year depending on weather conditions. In average, harvests range from 40 kg/ha to 250 kg/ha. In rare yield years, harvests can reach 500 kg/ha.
The walnut’s leaves and fruits have medicinal properties and are rich in vitamins, trace elements and other beneficial substances.
The enormous diversity of species allowed the scientist Vavilov to claim that nut and fruit forests are one of the origins of cultivated fruit species.
International biologists note that in terms of the area covered, the walnut-fruit forests are unique and the only one in the world in terms of their huge variety of tree and shrub species.
Valuable furniture and souvenirs used to be made from walnut wood. But now there is a moratorium on walnut logging until 2030. The walnut has also been given legal status as a valuable species, prohibiting the harvesting and sale of walnut wood in order to protect these unique forests. So, if you are offered to buy souvenirs made from walnut wood, please do not buy them! The government and local eco-activists are trying to protect the forest.
Support their efforts! We are relying on you!
In addition to walnut trees, these forests are home to many types of wild fruits and berries, including wild apple trees, rose hips, medicinal plants, barberry, hawthorn and many more.
The lives and livelihoods of local people are closely connected with forests and forest resources. Due to the absence of cropland, it is these valuable forest resources that are the main source of income for the local population.
THE ARSTANBAP FOREST OF PARADISE
The history of this forest is full of interesting legends. According to one of them, long time ago, there was a follower of the Prophet Muhammad named Arstanbap. The Prophet appreciated his bravery and strength. Seeing his good service, the Prophet told Arstanbap to find a suitable place on earth to set up a paradise. Arstanbap visited many places and stopped in this beautiful, sunny land, on the banks of the rushing mountain rivers. It seemed that only green forests were missing in this beautiful place. So Arstanbap planted and tended not only apple, apricot, cherry, almond and pistachio seedlings but mostly he planted walnut seedlings. The seedlings started gaining in strength, the forest grew larger and larger. And tireless and industrious Arstanbap continued planting and tending various trees: like maple, poplar, willow, birch. He planted a heavenly garden, which over the years grew into a huge walnut forest and was named after Arstanbap. Muslims consider this walnut forest to be sacred.
THE WALNUT TREE INHERITED BY ALEXANDER OF MACEDONIA
Another legend is related to the great Greek general Alexander the Great, who lived more than 2000 years ago. During his march to Central Asia he sieged the city of Hojent for several months in order to conquer it.
In the Fergana Valley, the Greek warriors, exhausted by long battles, by hunger, disease and wounds, suffered from heat and lack of water. On their return, they passed by this forest and stopped in its sheltering shade and coolness. The locals who lived in this forest brought nuts as a gift to Alexander the Great. The Greeks were delighted by the nuts’ amazing taste and healing benefits. Warriors who ate the nuts began to recover gaining strength, and their wounds began to heal.
Alexander the Great, seeing the nut’s usefulness and value. He ordered seedlings to delivered to Alexandria and Macedonia. This is how the Arstanbap nut spread around the world under the name walnut.
THE WALNUT FOREST THAT STALIN VALUED HIGHLY
It is said that the Arstanbap forest has been of great interest to various nations of the world since the ancient times.
For example, according to a legend, in 1945, American businessmen approached the head of the USSR, Stalin. They asked Stalin if it is possible to lease the Arstanbap forest for a period of 50 years. Stalin said: “Let the Kyrgyz authorities themselves decide about the lease of the forest, and I will get to know and give you an answer”.
Having said this, he instructed to provide him with detailed information about the Arstanbap forest. After studying the details of the unique relict forests of Arstanbap, he replied to the Americans, “The Kyrgyz leadership did not agree”. It is rumoured that after this incident, the Arstanbap forest was declared a nature reserve.
Along with the relict walnut and fruit forests, Arstanbap also has other attractions. There are several lakes on the territory of the reserve.
There are two waterfalls – the Grand Waterfall and the Small Waterfall.
The ” Grand waterfall”, falls down from an 80-metre high rock.
At the foot of the snow-white mountains, the 35-metre long “Small waterfall” has become a popular tourist spot, too.
The Grand Falls and the Small Falls can be visited on horseback or on foot. In the foothills of Arstanbap you can find plants with healing effects.
In addition, travellers can visit the sacred lake Köl Mazar Lake and the Holy Stone, which has become an important pilgrimage site for Central Asian Muslims. If you want to visit them, you can contact the local CBT office. They will gladly be able to give you walking and horseback riding tours, which last from 8 hours up to 2 days!