Crop of the Week: Apricots
Apricot cultivation has been documented for centuries in the Middle East and Central Asia, though the fruit’s exact origin is disputed. The Scottish botanist John Claudius Loudon believed it had a wide native range, from Armenia to the Himalayas, China, and Japan. Almost all U.S. production takes place in California (with some in the Pacific Northwest), though the U.S. does not rank in the top 10 producers of apricots worldwide.
Apricots belong to the Rosaceae family – the same family as peach and cherry trees, as well as the almond tree (whoa!). Breaking open an apricot pit (or “stone”) reveals a small seed resembling an almond. But don’t eat it! These little guys contain hydrogen cyanide.
Most of the apricots we eat derive from the common tree, Prunus armeniaca. Blenheim apricots, while familiar to us at Mission Pie, are one of the most coveted varieties and sadly fast disappearing. They were brought to California from England in the 1880’s and grown mostly in the central valley. While they have an amazing flavor, they are fragile and don’t travel well; many growers are abandoning this variety for ones that have a longer shelf life and the ability to travel longer distances.
We just welcomed our first batch of Royal Blenheim apricots from Jeff and Annie Main of Good Humus Produce in the Capay Valley. Jeff and Annie have retraced this apricot’s path, paying visits to England and France where this heirloom fruit stopped on its way from its origins in the Himalayas, and Ladakh, where Annie visited the ancestors of her trees and gathered pits to bring home to California. After tasting one of these golden fruits, it’s no wonder that the apricot’s first American home – the Santa Clara Valley – was nicknamed the Valley of the Heart’s Delight due to its abundance of flowering orchards.