With each season we’re blessed with some of God’s most incredible and delicious fruits. There’s nothing comparable to Prunus armeniaca, the apricot, with flavors unmatched by any other fruit.
Apricots were domesticated as early as 2000 BC in Central Asia and China. Archaeological evidence also shows them in ancient Armenia. Alexander the Great is said to have introduced them to Greece. They were later introduced to the Romans. It’s believed apricot trees were introduced to the New World by Spanish missionaries in California in the early 18th century. Early French explorers brought them to the eastern US in the 1700’s.
While the apricot’s cultivation likely spread because of its taste, more recently it has been consumed for its bounty of health benefits. These nifty little easily-eaten-out-of-hand fruits are loaded with generous amounts of vitamin A and C, B1, B2, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron, as well as fiber. Who says healthy food must taste bad?
The best fruits are of course from your own tree ripened to their most succulent sweetness. Aside from savoring them fresh, they’re also great frozen, canned, dried, or made into jam. Commercially, they’re also used for making liqueurs. There’s even a National Apricot Day every January 9th!
Today’s apricots are cultivated on every continent in the world except Antarctica. In the US, most commercially grown apricots are grown in California, Washington, and Indiana, but home gardeners can cultivate them in Oregon as well. The main secret to success is selecting the appropriate variety.
No matter the variety, apricot trees can top 45’. However, they can be kept at 10’-12’ with annual pruning. They’re broadly spreading with ovate bright-green leaves and lovely pink flowers that appear in spring. Most are self-fertile, but some aren’t and require a pollinating partner.
They’re also very long-lived generous producers (usually at 2-3 years of age) of velvety golden-to-deep orange, slightly tart, perfumy-sweet fruits that nearly melt in the mouth. Like peaches and plums, they contain a single seed (kernel). (Note: While many claim that consuming apricot kernels can fight cancer, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. DON’T consume the apricot kernel. It contains a chemical called amygdalin, which the body turns into cyanide. Eating apricot kernels is unsafe, especially when eaten in large amounts.)
While hardy in zones 4-9, the challenge in our area is spring frost. Selecting late-blooming, disease- resistant varieties is most important.
Eight hours of sun is needed for good fruiting. Apricots tolerate a variety of soils if they’re well drained. They’re too large for growing in a container. Water deeply (1’ per week over the root zone) by drip irrigation, mulching generously to retain moisture.
Fertilize with generous amounts of well-rotted compost. Spray with copper fungicide in spring and apply foliar micronutrients to aid the immune system.
Although a little challenging, there’s nothing like harvesting your own fruits that are sure to be a “cot” above the rest.
Ty Ty Nursery
Harvest Time Foods
Sources for apricot trees:
Varieties to look for: Harglow; Zard; Puget Gold; Wenatchee Moorpark
One Green World
Shooting Star Nursery
Fresh Apricot Crisp
Preheat oven to 350°
Grease an 8×8” square baking pan with oil.
6 cups fresh apricots, washed, pitted and cut in lengthwise wedges (about 6 per fruit)
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg
½ cup organic honey or pure maple syrup or organic sugar
zest of one organic lemon and 1 tablespoon juice
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, stirring gently until the fruit is coated. Spoon into the prepared pan.
1 cup organic thick rolled oats
1/3 cup organic oat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
zest of one organic lemon
¼ cup pure maple syrup, organic honey, or organic brown sugar
Mix together the topping ingredients until blended and clumps form. Crumble topping over apricots in the pan.
Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown.
Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or vanilla Greek yogurt.
Makes 6-8 servings.