“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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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|