Save Me The Apricots

Green yesterday…


Green yesterday, ripe today, and rotten tomorrow”, as Charlie Olson loves to say. It’s mid-June and I’m anticipating apricot season like fireworks! This year’s crop has arrived with abundance and a little sense of caution. The Bay Area’s famous Blenheim apricots are just ready for picking and hopefully, Mother Nature will provide even heat over the next few weeks to allow the fruit to be picked gradually. Farmers have to be ready for any circumstance but this is what they hope for. Time is of the essence with a heritage fruit like the Blenheim.

Blenheim beauties
Ripe today

Orchardists are committed to bringing this exceptionally flavorful yet fragile variety to market fresh-picked. Excited, and a little anxious to not miss the season opener, I visited four farms this past week to check on the harvest’s readiness: C. J. Olson’s at the Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard, B & R Farms and Fairhaven Orchards in Hollister, and Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill. I found cherries, sweet and juicy, in good supply while apricots were gaining color and readiness for harvest. In a good year, the cherry crop gets picked before the apricots are ready but that does not always happen!

The pristine Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard was being tended like a mother about to give birth by Charlie Olson. The “Apricot Stand” sign was set out, an email sent to alert the thousands of eager annual patrons that harvest is near, and fruit boxes, drying trays, and farm laborers were at the ready. It’s a waiting game until the fruit color and ripeness align. Charlie and his long-time associate Elisabeth are prepared. I’m grateful they have added my cookbook to their charming farm shop collection of year-round fruit staples including Elisabeth’s delicious jams, dried apricots, honey, orchard photographs, and much more!

Sunnyvale Orchard, harvest ready

The Rossi family at B & R Farms in Hollister are unique for devoting their large ranch primarily to growing Blenheim apricots. Jim, Mari and their adult children run a vibrant operation that thrives on innovation. In addition to their investments in mechanical processing and picking, last year they went out on a limb to hold two successful U-Pick events. This year, the Rossi’s are experimenting with fresh Blenheim apricot deliveries to select local markets. They plan to pick and deliver the fruit to vendors every few days to ensure the fragile fruit is at its best.

Blenheims at B & R Farms

B & R’s farm shop is brimming with a wide range of apricot products. If you’re lucky, they’ll be serving delicious Apricot freezes to sip while you shop. Mari Rossi loves to collaborate with the community in creative ways, including seasonal events that showcase local artists and their products. I’m delighted to be included and always enjoy a visit to B & R Farms!

Summer Pop-Up at B & R Farms

The Rajkovich family has been cultivating fruit at their Fairhaven Orchards property since 1945. Today, their four adult children run the enterprise with a beautiful, airy farm shop filled with fresh cherries and apricots in season, along with dried fruit, nuts, and other products. The care they give to their beautiful orchards that stretch over rolling hills includes bright green grass rows neatly separating the trees. I purchased some fresh cherries for an early summer dessert and a large bag of dried apricots. Fresh Blenheim apricots were waiting in the wings for harvest.

Before we headed to Andy’s Orchard for our last fruit stop, we made a quick trip a bit further south to check out Brewery Twenty Five in San Juan Bautista. Their Apricot Moons (oatmeal stout) and Fuzzy Jules (wheat beer) are made with Blenheim apricot purée from B & R Farms. The beer gets great reviews and has the beautiful look of summer! This is an important new product line, and one of many great things that can be made with apricot purée.

Apricot Beer

Andy’s Orchard is the gateway to family orchards that flourish south of San Jose. Located between the recently preserved Coyote Valley Open Space and the City of Morgan Hill, Andy Mariani maintains a thriving orchard operation within the challenging border between heritage agricultural lands and encroaching suburban development. Andy’s agricultural expertise, management and marketing skills, personal drive and warmth sustain his uniquely diverse orchard business. There is no one like Andy!

Andy Mariani talking about apricots

The large, recently remodeled farm shop at Andy’s Orchard welcomes you to a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables in season, along with an emporium of dried, preserved, and candied fruits and nuts, books, and much more. Fresh cherries – I counted 5 different varieties – were in abundance and also, some very early Blenheim apricots; just enough to whet the appetite! So I bought a few pounds of Bing cherries and lovely Blenheim apricots (plus an irresistible cherry patterned face mask). Now I had what I needed to make the inaugural summer dessert!

Bings & Blenheims

I’ve noticed during the build up to the apricot season that apricot lovers are drawn to my previous blog posts “Now What Do I Do With All These Apricots” and Now What Do I Do With All These Apricots (2.0) I enjoy remembering what was on my mind when I wrote them in 2016 and 2017, before I published For the Love of Apricots. Since then, I’ve written many other blog posts with recipes that are listed on the Blog page. The greatest excitement about apricots is right NOW during harvest season! To kick off the season, I am sharing one of my favorite early summer recipes featuring apricots and cherries; a rather brief marriage of two superlative fresh fruits. Give it a try and enjoy!

Pickin’ time

In this most unusual time of the global pandemic, it must be said that many of our joys – fingering fruit at a local farmers markets, attending a bustling U-pick event, and visiting orchard farm shops, are constrained. Farmers are severely challenged to bring their ripe fruit to the public safely this year. I’ve watched them become especially creative marketers given the need for social distancing. I hope you will bend with the changes like me, and show up (carefully) to enjoy and support the fresh apricot season. Then, get to work at home making jams, preserves, pies, tarts, and planning where to plant your own Blenheim apricot tree!

Apricot Cherry Crumble

This early summer dessert is old-fashioned and luscious. Tori Ritchie, Bay Area cookbook author and editor who also writes the Tuesday Recipe blog, developed this recipe – it is exceptionally good!


Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • Butter for greasing the baking dish

  Fruit filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm, fresh, ripe apricots, pitted and quartered

  • 1/2 pound sweet cherries, pitted and sliced in half

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  Topping:

  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

To Prepare:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F, and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Generously butter a 11/2-quart (6 cup) gratin dish or 7 × 9-inch baking dish.

  • Place the apricots and cherries in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the sugar and flour. Stir in the almond extract and mix well. Spread the fruit mixture in the prepared baking dish, reserving the mixing bowl.

  • Place the almonds and brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process, pulsing the machine until the almonds are finely chopped. Add butter and process, pulsing until just blended.

  • Scrape the almond mixture from the food processor into the bowl used to mix the fruit and stir in the oats, blending in any juices left behind in the bowl. Spread the topping over the fruit.

  • Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes or so before serving warm, or let cool to room temperature.

If you make and enjoy this recipe, I’d love to hear from you about it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #fortheloveofapricots

Heading into the orchard!

9 comments on “Save Me The Apricots”:

  1. Thanks for the Head’s up on B&R Farms – I’ll be heading out there next Saturday for their U Pick – woohoo!

      1. Hi Donna – I do not know the cost but you can check on their website or call B & R Farms and they’ll let you know. Have fun! Lisa

  2. Great post Lisa! So fun to see and hear about all the different orchards and what they have to offer.
    The banner at the top of your page makes my mouth my water and reminds me of the holidays!

  3. Thank you Lisa, for again. a great report on the Season of the Apricot. I would love to hear from your readers for some suggestions on how to dry apricots for the winter, as their delicate chewyness is best when making cookies and breakfast muffins on cold winter mornings.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this article. I have fond memories of “cutting ‘cots” at Garrod’s Ranch in Saratoga in my youth.

  5. I would love to buy some Blahiems . My 93 year old mother grew up in Sunnyvale,as did I……her mother made the best tarts with them. OLSEN’S!!!!

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