Overview

Zuheir Chehabi

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For hundreds of years apples in Syria were limited to those wild varieties grown mainly in the high mountains around the major cities in Syria.

Lebanon which was geographically considered part of Syria, planted new varieties-starking delicious and golden delicious in the early thirties of the 20th century.

In mid forties Zuheir el Chehabi- a famous and well known orchard grower -planted those two varieties in his farm in the suburbs of Damascus ,and so considered to be a pioneer in growing a new and fancy apple varieties in Syria.



Since the Lebaneese grew their apples in the heights, Zuheir el Chehabi noticed the difference in quality, as his farm was only 650 meters above sea level.

He thought at length, and immediately headed for higher altitudes where he established his new farm. That was in 1956 in Sasaa area, it was in a village 40 k.m far from Damacus towards the Jolan heights.

The altitude was 900 meters above sea level. Zuheir el Chehabi made some changes concerning the roots of his apple trees.

He introduced a new variety of root stocks-East Malling 7- which had been just adapted in England and Europe to retard the growth of such vigorous apple trees as golden and starking delicious.East Malling 7 also helped to bring the crop earlier and make it abundant .

He also planted there other apple varieties-McIntosh , Jonathan and Rome beauty.

Still the quality of his production did not meet his expectation and desire. Zuheir el Chehabi aspired to a place with a more suitable environment.

In 1970 he started his journey to the mountains around Damascus, roaming all over along with his maps and altimeter.

He wrote down all his observations and the informations he had collected starting from the site, the general look , rainfall average, Wind velocity, cold hours, up to the depth of soil and of water depth level.

In 1971 an old friend of his from Swaida (a city 110 K.m. to the south of Damascus )brought him a box of apples;Starking and Golden delicious picked up from his farm which was located in Jabal el Arab mountain about 20 k.m. ahead of Swaida city.

The look of the apples in the box was amazing, the starking variety was striped deep red , while the golden one was waxy yellow, and both were large and elongated.

When he had one, his feelings could not be described ; The aroma, the juice and the strong sweet taste, put an end to his search.

Next morning Zuheir el Chihabi was on his way to the appointed mountain. Once he arrived there he saw nothing outstanding or even inviting ; Rocks and stones piled and spread all over from the showers of the old silent volcanoes.

Here and there he could see some gaps between the rocks where grapevines were planted crawling on the soil. When he went little higher, he started seeing few orchards scattered in the area . He did his best to visit most of the orchards that day. The most surprising observation was that he did not see any indication of irrigation, no soil partitions , no canals for conducting water and no wells as well.

On the other hand there was no symptoms of leaf water shortage phenomena, though it was the harvesting season and the trees were loaded with apples.

On his way back to Damascus the idea of having a land in that rocky mountain grew fast. He knew that it could be developed to meet his target in having an ideal and distinguished apple orchard. By the time he arrived to Damascus the idea became reality or almost his destiny.

To attain his aim and to satisfy his aspiration for a perfect apple quality, he had to adjust between running his farm in Sasaa and the achievement of his promising project in the mountain that are about 175 k.m. apart.

Two major obstacles faced Zuheir el Chihabis program and prevented him from proceeding :The distance and being alone.

In 1972 I was in India (Kinana son of Zuheir el Chehabi ) when I received his letter carrying all his worries, ambitions and difficulties . I read between the lines his desperate need for help and support , his need for me to fulfill with him his dream .

I did not let him down as I never did . I came to Damascus in winter 1972, and in spring 1973 we made a tour around all the places my father already visited and considered. At the end of the tour ,I agreed with him that our future farm should be in Jabal el Arab mountain, and to me the site was incomparable to any other site we had seen.

In October 1973 war between Syria and Israel took place ,and our farm in Sasaa had been one of the battle fields that witnessed the war. The outcome was major destruction of the farm, the thing that put our future project into action .

In 1974 we started buying the land in Jabal el Arab mountain that belonged to 181 people. It took us one year to finish the bye. In 1975 we started developing the land, and the process took us four years .We planted every piece of land as soon as we finished developing it. In 1976 we had the first plantation. We imported our trees from Delbard nurseries in France.The varieties were according to the following chart :

Nursery

Rootstocks

Variety

Species

No.of
trees

Delbard-France

Seedling

GOLDEN SPUR

Apple

400

Delbard-France

Seedling

RED SPUR

Apple

400

Delbard-France

Seedling

STRKRIMSON

Apple

100

Delbard-France

Seedling

BELL GOLDEN

Apple

100

Lepage-France

persia vulgaris

DIXIRED

Peach

200

Lepage-France

persia vulgaris

REDHAVEN

Peach

300

Lepage-France

persia vulgaris

ROYAL APRIL

Peach

200

Lepage-France

persia vulgaris

CRIMSON GOLD

Nectarine

150

Lepage-France

persia vulgaris

EARLY SUNGRAND

Nectarine

150

         

In 1978 We planted the second plantation according to the following chart:

         

Nursery

Rootstocks

Variety

Species

No.of
trees

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

STARKRIMSON

Apple

1000

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

BELL GOLDEN

Apple

500

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

BLUSHING GOLDEN

Apple

500

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

CHIEFTAIN

Apple

100

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

DELBARESTIVALE

Apple

100

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

ROYAL GALA

Apple

1000

Delbard-France

M. M. 106

GOLDEN SPUR

Apple

500

Our grafting

Seedling

GOLDEN DELECIOUS

Apple

1200

Our grafting

Seedling

STARKING DELECIOUS

Apple

600

Delbard-France

Mazarb

Several varieties

Cherry

300

Delbard-France

Pyrus communis

KOSHIA

Pear

300

Delbard-France

Quince BA 29

SUPER COMICE

Pear

120

Delbard-France

Quince BA 29

STARKRIMSON

Pear

50

Delbard-France

Quince BA 29

WILLIAM ROUGE

Pear

100

In 1980 I went to the united states and visited Stark nurseries in Louisiana Missouri in order to get the rest of the trees from there. It was a great experience to me to see and live such a historical work lead by a traditional family, The Starks. I did not see any difference between Stark and Delbard nurseries in France concerning apple trees , varieties , rootstocks or growth .
The Starks referred me back to Delbard in France and told me that they consider it their twins in Europe as the air freight will be much cheaper .
In 1981 we planted the rest of the land with apples again from Delbard ,according to the following chart :

Nursery

Rootstocks

Variety

Species

No.of
trees

Delbard -France

M.M. 106

GOLDEN SPUR

Apple

7000

Delbard -France

M.M. 106

STARKRIMSON

Apple

3500

Since I was very much involved in apple production, and very much aware of its benefits, and since I was also in good knowledge of the great benefits of its cider vinegar, I decided to go for the production of apple cider vinegar.

In 1986 I started my apple cider vinegar production program, following the Orleans method . For four years I produced annually about 2-3tons of A.C.V. but I have sold none. I distributed them all over Syria between friends , relatives , and acquaintances .

In 1991 I decided to make it a line along with my agricultural career , but I never thought that one day it would be my major line. I started producing and selling A.C.V.in the gross.
In 1999 I introduced my first bottle to the public. The reaction was impressive.