Pick Your Own Fresh California Apricots
California produces over 95% of the countries apricots and boasts numerous fruit farms where you can pick their own. Following are links to lists of orchards. Generally apricots are in season for picking in Northern California from May 25 to July 10 and in Southern and Central California from May 10 to August 15.
When choosing apricots one should look for fruit with an orange-yellow to orange color. They should be plump and fairly firm. Fresh apricots are fully ripe when they are soft to the touch and juicy. This is when they should be eaten. To keep apricots from over ripening, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Apricots that are slightly hard can be ripened by placing in a paper bag for a couple of days. Green apricots should be avoided as they will not ripen. Fresh apricots can be frozen by halving then placing on a baking sheet until frozen. They can then be packed in plastic freezer bags.
Fresh apricots are a delicate fruit with a fuzzy exterior that is very soft. In Latin apricot means "precious" and they are considered a prized fruit because of their delicate nature. The flavor is tangy but also softly sweet. Just three apricots contain 30 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamin A. They are also a great source of Vitamin C, iron and fiber. Because California apricots are delicate in nature, they do not need to be peeled when eaten. Simply cut a fresh apricot along the seam and remove the seed. They can also be easily separated with the fingers. Fresh apricots are a very nutritious and healthy snack.
Like apples, apricots are available in many varieties. The most prized California apricots are the Blenheim which has a very intense color and flavor. It is considered the most delicious California apricot. It is particularly juicy which also limits its shelf life for shipping purposes. Other varieties which are commonly found grown in California are Patterson, Tilton, Flaming Gold, Katy and Castlebrite. All have their own characteristics. Castlebrite apricots are bright orange and very flavorful when fully ripe. Katy apricots are a relatively new variety. Their skin is yellow-orange with a blush to it and they also are full of flavor when ripe. Flaming Gold apricots are orange-yellow and even sometimes only yellow in color. They are not as flavorful as other varieties. Tilton apricots, a longtime favorite and at one time the dominant California apricot, are very unique and one of the most flavorful of apricots. They are slighter flatter with a suture line that goes halfway around the apricot. This variety is juicy and tender with a sweet-tart flavor. Patterson apricots are known more for their yield, durability and ease of transport rather than flavor.
Eating a fresh California apricot is one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy this precious fruit. They are also excellent in fruit salads and combined with other fruits and sweet, soft cheeses. They are tasty additions to baked goods such as pies, cakes, muffins, breads, breakfast sweets, puddings and ice cream. They can also be used in entrée recipes and are especially well paired with poultry and pork dishes.