Apricots, little bites of sun

Healthy apricots on branch.

A few words about apricots in France…

2012 apricot production in France – 160,900 tons 1

Production areas in France – Languedoc-Roussillon, the Rhône river area, the Mediterranean coastal areas.

Availability – June to August
Full season – July
Average price in 2012 – 2.5 € / kg 2
Consumption in 2012 – 3.8 kg per household 3
Nutrition 4 – 3.5 oz (100 g) of apricots are equivalent to 49.1 kcal

Apricots in the orchard

Growing apricot trees that can grow to over 20 feet (6 m) tall requires patience and know-how. Their production is almost impossible when planted out of a geographical area specific to each variety. In France, the ‘Bergeron’ and ‘Orange de Provence’ varieties are the most cultivated. They both have a rather long shape, but their colors are different: the ‘Bergeron’ has a uniform orange color, whereas the ‘Orange de Provence’ is mottled with red. As for the small, round orange-with-red-dots apricots, those are the ‘Rouge de Roussillon’ variety.

Propagation of apricot trees is through grafting on plum trees and almond trees at the end of July, or on apricot trees and peach trees end of August.

In February blooming takes place, always a delicate phase because the fragile flowers can’t stand the climate variations that often are the trademark of the end of winter. Flowers are pollinated either thanks to their self-pollinating properties, or from a neighboring flower in the same tree: apricot trees are self-pollinating.

Summer care (pruning and thinning) can help fruit development, and they are harvested when ripe starting in mid-June.

A little history

Apricot trees are native to Armenia but they came to Europe from China through the Silk Road. Thanks to trees planted in the Versailles gardens, France discovered the fruits under the reign of Louis the XIVth. But cultivation of this fruit only really took off in the following century.

Today, many varieties are grown in France, and each is often grown in few specific regions.

Apricots in the kitchen

The best fruits to choose are the ripe apricots with sweet, melting flesh. Their orange color guarantees that they are mature. Take care though, because some fruits may boast a reddish spot that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is perfectly ripe yet. This color, called “blush”, can appear much earlier than the appropriate harvest date.

If eating the apricots as is, count 3 apricots per person. Two and a half pounds (one kilogram) of apricots is the right amount for a 6 to 8-person pie or 1 quart (1 liter) of ice cream.

Apricot preserves

Apricots must be eaten quite quickly after purchase. They can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator or in the open air.

If in the refrigerator, remember to bring them out to room temperature before serving to release all their taste.

Preparing apricots

Raw or cooked, apricots are suited to many tastes and desires. Traditional pies and jams now are replace with less conventional preparations. Apricots are also prepared in soup, ice cream, syrups or pudding. There are unlimited manners of cooking it, to the point now of even flavoring main dishes. Roasted in a pan, apricots are perfect to side on poultry and white meats. It also matches lamb and rice well, too.

All these options make apricots the king of summer plates and snacks. Eaten as is, it is perfect for a light, tasty snack.

1 – Agreste
2 – Kantar Worldpanel
3 – INSEE (one household averages 2.3 persons), Kantar Worldpanel
4 –Ciqual 2012

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: Cormac Eby