Apricot Madness

Apricots

Photo by Mark Bittman

It wouldn’t be right to say that I went to California last week to look for apricots—I had a lot to take care of—but that definitely played a part. Since some time around 15 years ago, when David Karp—not the Tumblr one, the fruit-whisperer one—met me at the Santa Monica farmers’ market and introduced me to real apricots, I have been, well, interested. (NOT obsessed.)

The short version of my own investigations is that the shelf-life of a good apricot is less than 48 hours, which means that you: a) pick them yourself, b) get someone to pick them and give/sell them to you FAST, or c) eat dried apricots, which are themselves awesome (especially if you get the Blenheim variety, which ship just fine).

So I went to visit friends near Hollister last week, with a couple of goals, among them to find apricots. They kindly found a friend whose wife had worked in an orchard when she was in high school, and the orchard owners in turn kindly let us stroll through and pick a few pounds. There were 20 or 30 trees there, each with widely differing numbers of apricots of varying ripeness. I have no idea what variety they were, nor did anyone else. I just know that eating them was, like, over the moon.

Some of the best were on the ground—warm, soft, jammy. They made my teeth hurt, but the intense sweetness was balanced by acidity. I’m not big on describing tastes (mostly because I’m not good at it), but I definitely smelled roses and tasted coconut; the experience was tropical.

On the tree, much of the fruit was unripe. After gently squeezing about 200 apricots, with an exceedingly low return on investment, I discovered that one way to find fruit that’s ready is to gently shake a branch, then investigate what falls down; most of that fruit was B+ or better, though a few were unripe.

Some of the fruit on the ground was damaged; you couldn’t sell it in a market. However, often it was still half-edible: One side was rotten, the other side delicious. We ate our way through a fair amount of that.

Of the four of us, three ate ourselves sick. (The fourth mostly picked a box for friends.) I packed some to bring to Kate’s house for Father’s Day. I transported them in egg cartons (with one plum, for variety), and we devoured them. Of special interest were two that had semi-dried on the tree: Fantastic.

Anyway, the bottom line is this: Like many berries, apricots have got to be ripe and fresh when you buy them. Those sold in supermarkets aren’t worth the plastic bags you put them in.

– Mark Bittman

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

12 Comments

  1. Joan Maes said...

    You’re so right, the grocery store apricots are fake. if you haven’t eaten a ripe fresh-picked apricot (still warm from the sun) you haven’t had a real apricot. if you are lucky enough to find Royal Blenheim apricots, they are King.

  2. Dan said...

    Since you live in the Bay Area now, you should head on over to Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill. They have a wide selection of fresh picked stone fruit, including heirloom varietals and experimental hybrids. I would often drive back to Berkeley with all surfaces of my car covered in sticky pluot juice.

  3. Judy Bergman said...

    The Trader Joe variety have to be cooked in sugar water to get any flavor out of them. Maybe it’s the heat. Good for smoothies or with yoghurt.

  4. Anne Macdonald said...

    Try coming back in late August or September and make yourself sick on wild California blackberries. I know a place… Just sayin’.

  5. Emily Vinik said...

    Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill CA grows a variety of stone fruits and has fruit tastings and tours. They also ship and have an on site store. Andy Mariani has been growing fruit here for decades.

  6. Lavues said...

    I seldom got the chance to eat a real apricot, hope to try one freshly picked!

  7. Lynne Cutler said...

    I thought you did live here now in the Bay Area?

  8. Michael Hanson said...

    I will second the comment about Andy’s Orchard — their orchard tour is absolutely not to be missed. Dozens of varieties, including many that are never shipped.

  9. john andres said...

    If you live in the bay area.Get in your car and drive toward Sacramento on Hwy 80.About 30 miles from Sac as you approach Vacaville,take the lagoon Valley exit. Go back over the overpass and head up Pleasants valley road. In a couple of miles you see a sign Brazelton Ranch. Apricots-Peaches. They are also on face book. One of the last apricot and peach growers around.

  10. Varun Arora said...

    Apricots are a great source of vitamin A, which you’ve probably heard about before — good for eyesight, right, Apricot is available and consumed in both fresh as well as dried form. Both are equally nutritious in their content

  11. Andy Mariani said...

    Yes, hope you stop by our Farm Stand & Orchard. You’re in for a real treat ! Btw~ Mother Nature is in a hurry this year. Everything is ripening about 2 weeks earlier than normal.
    ~ Andy Mariani

    http://www.Facebook.com/AndysOrchard

    • January said...

      Concordo eccetto su FLI e una parte del PdL, a FLI gli leverei comunisti, cosa c'entra il comunismo????Al PdL direi che buona parte dei più alti dirigenti e di chi manovra e ha &qqp;tootere&uuot; sono socialisti, poi ci sono i vari colonelli che non si capisce cosa sono e poi una percentuale va ai democristiani bigotti e ciarlatani (Giovanardi, Rotondi)

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