Apricots Abroad: Switzerland

Swiss Valais Apricots
The Valais Valley – Home to Swiss Apricots

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate and fondue…but apricots? Switzerland and apricots just didn’t seem to go together, especially in a valley located at the base of the Great St. Bernard Pass. Yet, on a recent visit, my husband and I were delighted to discover that this small country, renowned for its glaciated alps and crystalline lakes, has the climate, soils and longstanding tradition of producing outstanding apricots.

 

Swiss Apricot Orchard
Swiss Apricot Orchard

The Canton of Valais, a large province in southwestern Switzerland, holds the glacially-carved Valais valley through which flows the inaugural stretch of the Rhone River. Framed by soaring alps including the Matterhorn, the Valais valley enjoys abundant sunshine, fertile soil and produces more than 96% of the apricots in Switzerland.

 

Valais and Rhone River View
Valais and Rhone River View

We arrived in Geneva in May to visit our daughter at the end of her studies and travel for a few weeks. While she packed her bags, we headed out on a road trip along Lake Geneva to Montreux (home of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival) and into the Valais valley in search of apricots. I realized it was early in the season but was curious to see for myself how an alpine country could produce this delicate fruit that I had thought mostly thrived in Mediterranean climates.

 

En Route to Apricots
En route to Apricots

As we drove into the valley, we were alternately looking at maps and the passing landscape to find our non-tourist destination. Suddenly, approaching the town of Martigny, there they were. We took the next highway off-ramp and headed down a country lane, looking for an invitation into an apricot orchard. After seeing this encouraging sign, we parked the car and began to explore on foot.

View of Swiss apricot orchard with Alps in the background
Apricots and Alps

In late spring, the Valais apricots were just beginning to blush on the trees, too early to pick or taste. We had to content ourselves with the scenic views as we followed the apricot trees from the valley floor up a narrow, winding road that leads to the Great St. Bernard Pass. Stopping at a small farm orchard clinging to the mountain slope, we caught a view of the Valais valley stretching eastward from Martigny to Sion, where apricots begin to give-way to a prime wine-growing region.

 

Valais Valley Apricot Region
Valais Valley Apricot Region

The most famous apricot grown in Valais is the “Luizet” variety, that ripens from July to the end of August. Luizet apricots are prized for their beautiful red-orange color, juicy texture and excellent tart/sweet flavor. In recent decades, cultivation of other varieties has increased to approximately 70 different types of apricots today. Despite the wide range of outstanding fruits and vegetables grown in the Valais, I was charmed to learn that the apricot is known as the “prince of the Valais orchards”.

 

Valais Apricot Stand
Valais Apricot Stand

This year, our son and his wife visited the region in July and discovered this apricot stand, where they learned about the delicious fruit from a lovely Swiss lady, who coincidentally had lived in San Francisco for many years before returning to her home in Valais.

 

Luizet Apricots
Luizet Apricots

Nearly all of the Swiss apricots are consumed within their borders, so to learn of their pleasures one must make a visit. Beyond being enjoyed as fresh fruit, the Swiss produce an impressive variety of apricot products. Foremost among these is Apricot brandy, which has a luminous orange color and extraordinary flavor. Having made my own apricot brandy, I have to say the Swiss have some traditions up their sleeve that I would like to learn!

Apricots also make their way into delicious chocolate bars, brandy, apricot nectar, eau de vie, moisture lotion as well as many other products.

Swiss Apricot Products
Swiss Apricot Products

We made a few stops near the provincial capital, Sion, to taste Apricot Brandy, the local wines, and shop for other apricot products; all conveniently sized to bring home to savor, while remembering the beautiful and bountiful Valais valley. With our local apricots, I prepared this Swiss recipe for Apricot Mousse and imagined the flavor of Swiss apricots!

Apricot Mousse with Swiss Apricots
Swiss Apricot Mousse


Swiss Apricot Mousse

Adapted from a Swiss recipe, this Apricot Mousse is easy to make, with a light and delicious apricot flavor. If fresh apricots are not available, substitute canned or frozen apricots


Yield: Serving Size: 4 Prep Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh apricots (6-8), or use frozen or canned if fresh are not available

  • 3 Tbsp Apricot Brandy

  • 5 Tbsp sugar, divided

  • 3 egg yolks

  • ½ cup whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Cut the apricots in half, discarding the pits

  2. In a small saucepan, gently cook the apricots, brandy, and 2 Tbsp sugar on medium-low heat, covered, stirring occasionally until apricots soften, 3-5 minutes.

  3. Puree the apricots in a blender and let cool to room temperature.

  4. In a small pan set over simmering water, whisk the egg yolks with 3 Tbsp sugar, beating constantly until slightly thickened and warm to the touch. Remove the pan from the water.

  5. Add the puree to the yolks and sugar mixture and blend until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator.

  6. When the puree is cool, beat the cream just until stiff peaks form, and fold into the apricot puree. Pour the mousse into individual serving cups or wine glasses, cover loosely with plastic and chill. Decorate with a sprig of mint or a slice of apricot and serve.

 

Apricots from Valais
Apricots from Valais

I enjoy reading your comments very much and would love to know where in the world you’ve experienced apricots?


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9 comments on “Apricots Abroad: Switzerland”:

  1. Dear Lisa,

    I could write a note in just about every places in your blog, since all posts are taking me through a lovely journey.

    I choose Switzerland since it is where I am from and where I live.
    Your journey in SWZ with apricots as a focus is very well explained and illustrated. I learned quite a bit and also saw a part of my country through an enchanting angle.

    In a more general basis I want to acknowledge and celebrate what I recognize as a wonderful job on your part for all the aspects you touch as you share your journey with the apricots.
    I see it, reading you along the pages, as extremely touching since it is anchored deep in you from your childhood. It is closed to the “madeleine” de Proust!
    You are curious in a very wide range with the fruit and its context. The senses are stimulated as you talk about taste, color, different species, recepes etc.
    Though out the pages also I see your desire to bring our awareness on the ones that cultivate the land to acknowledge their work and the need for more proximity between the urban citizen and the rural activities.

    …and also in your lines and sharing I feel tenderness and find it very touching.

    Thank you Lisa

    Laurence Courvoisier

  2. Another well-written and informative article about apricots. I’ve been to Switzerland and never thought about apricots. However, it does seem possible since they get warm, even hot, summers. Lovely pictures. I especially liked the farm scene: “Apricots for sale at the farm”

  3. Hi Lisa: Love your blog almost as much as I love apricots. I’m a life-long resident of Santa Clara Valley. I remember walking home from Hillsdale Elementary school thru a walnut orchard and out onto Garden Avenue. One of my friends in the 5th grade, Barbara G., her family had an apricot tree in the side yard and we’d eat ourselves silly when the apricots ripened. Our neighbor, Mrs. Thelma Kirby, had apricot and peach trees in the backyard and she’d make apricot jam, bake fragrant pies, irresistible apricot breads, you name it, Mrs. Kirby made it in her kitchen of such incredible, mouth-watering goodies. I helped her can apricots one year and was rewarded with an apricot pie and two jars of her jam!! I do agree that most of the apricot orchards are gone. However, the Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard sells fresh Blenheim apricots fresh from the orchard. The apricots are sold during a 3-4 week period. I purchased about 30lbs of their fabulous crop this year and made preserves and jars of apricots in brandy (your recipe, Delish, thank you very much!!.) We also bought apricots from Wolfe Ranch in Brentwood. Wolfe Ranch is about 75-80 miles from home in San Jose but their Blenheims are divine. When we visit Andy’s Orchard down in Morgan Hill, I tend to pick up about 10-15 lbs just for eating out of hand. By the way, a friend of mine, born in Switzerland, remembers the Valais valley apricots. Her mother made apricot preserves that they would open during the Christmas holiday season….ah, the Blenheims from Santa Clara valley are now gone for this summer, but there is always the 2017 crop and new recipes to discover!! Thanks for your blog…I look forward to your next entry.

  4. Wonderful addition to your blog Lisa. The pictures of the Swiss valley you visited are spectacular, and the recipe for Swiss Apricot Mousse sounds intriguing. Who knew apricots could grow in such a cold climate. But of course, you knew and I’m sure it was well worth the side trip to see for yourself.

  5. Hi Lisa, I had no idea apricots were in Switzerland! Loved your beautiful write up of the area and history. I could see this lovely valley with its red orange apricots in my mind. Thank you

  6. Enjoyed your Blog about apricots in Switzerland..Lovely valley there!My cousin Margie sent this via email..I was born and lived in the Santa Clara Valley,for 38 years,before moving to AZ,then here in Loveland Co to stay..My parents had a ranch in the Almaden valley of mostly prunes,but also some apricot trees.My Mother canned apricot jam every year..and made pies,that were wonderful.Now the valley is so built up,you have to know my cousin to find any apricot trees to harvest.I love this sweet plump orange fruit..and sadly by the time they get to Co. just do not have that flavor they had back home..fresh off the tree and still warm from the sun.

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