Valley apricots tempt from early May through July
Jun 06, 2012 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Grilled, baked or eaten fresh off the tree, apricots are an early summer treat for fans of Valley tree fruit.
Apricot harvest generally begins in early May and runs through July. That's plenty of time to indulge in the fruit's sweet, juicy and sometimes tart flavor.
The region produces more than two dozen varieties of apricots, including Castlebrite, Robada, Lorna, Patterson and the beloved Blenheim, an old-time variety still grown by some farmers.
Paul Mesple of Fresno grows and sells Blenheim apricots at a roadside stand on the family's place in northeast Fresno.
The ranch at 7433 N. Millbrook Ave., just north of Herndon Avenue, is expected to have Blenheims available this week or next. Call (559) 439-0104 to check.
To those who have never had a Blenheim, Mesple said the fruit embodies what people love about apricots: it has a delicate sweetness with just a tinge of tartness. "The flavor has a lot more depth that other varieties whose flavor just disappears," Mesple said. "This has a lasting flavor."
Apricots can be found at nearly all the area farmers markets and fruit stands.
Dennis Simonian of Simonian Farms at Clovis and Jensen avenues will have them until July. Simonian is harvesting Robadas and, soon after that, Modesto apricots. Both are good for eating fresh or making into jams.
"They have a nice strong color and flavor that people like," Simonian said.
When buying apricots, look for fruit that is somewhat soft to the touch. Most apricots, with the exception of Blenheims, should have a deep rich color. Blenheims generally have a lighter skin color.
If they are still firm, leave them on the counter for a day or two to ripen.
"And don't put them in the fridge, it kills the taste," said Kevin Remick of Reedley, who grows six varieties of apricots and sells at the Clovis Farmers Market on Friday nights.
Chef Nathan Lewis-Copeland of Victoria Rose Restaurant in Clovis uses local apricots in his scones and bread pudding with brandied apricot sauce.
At home, apricots lend themselves well to grilling. Copeland said cooks can make an easy and tasty appetizer by cutting apricots in half, lightly brushing them with oil and lightly seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the apricot halves on the grill to heat through. Remove and let them cool, then fill with mascarpone cheese, prosciutto and grilled shrimp.
"The smoky flavor and the caramelized sugar on the fruit gives this a really great taste," Copeland said.
Apricot chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups quick cooking oats
2-3 apricots, pitted and diced
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into the creamed butter and sugar.
Mix in the oats, then the chocolate chips, and then the apricots. Grease a cookie sheet. Drop dough onto cookie sheet in rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. 'Best served warm.
Note: If you prefer fluffier cookies, chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour before baking.
--Courtesy of Kingsburg Orchards
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@FresnoBeeBob.
___ (c)2012 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.) Visit The Fresno Bee (Fresno,
Calif.) at www.fresnobee.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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