Such a fitting beginning to this blog that starts just after the last apricots have been eaten.
Our family vacation to San Diego each Fourth of July coincides exactly with our apricot tree’s harvest. The first year our tree blossomed and bore fruit was so exciting to me, reminding me of my own childhood apricot tree. I could NOT wait. As the days to ripeness were slowly approaching, so was our vacation. Sure enough, we left before any apricots could be picked. Luckily, my husband had to fly home for a work matter and brought with him what apricots he could, and I made jam.
The second year, anyone with an apricot tree can probably guess what happened. The squirrels found the tree. No apricots.
The third year, after a homemade attempt at an ugly anti-squirrel net, we had a harvest. And again, my husband flew home for a work event and salvaged what he could. And with more apricots than we could eat in their shelf life, we made jam again. The next year, discouraged by the cumbersome net and the ill-placed holiday, I sacrificed the apricots to the squirrels.
So despondent by both the timing of the harvest and the squirrels, I neglected the tree. Where I would normally summer prune to keep the tree at a small size, I didn’t even do that. By not pruning it, this year I had a huge tree too big for the squirrels to get to. And, I had found the perfect house sitter who picked, saved, and refrigerated several pounds of apricots for me.
I have perfected the apricot jam recipe finding that the low-sugar pectin actually had the most consistent and delicious results. I never worry about the jam not setting up. But I also do not eat very much apricot jam. And while it was a great gift, I wanted to enjoy every single apricot without sharing. This year, I forewent the jam and instead my three year old and I made apricot ice cream, and dehydrated the remaining fruit.
While a three year old cannot do too much with the process of growing and planting an apricot tree, they can enjoy eating the fruit. It is also the very first tree to blossom in the early spring with flowers busting out looking like popcorn kernels and smelling heavenly. We practice our knife skills by cutting the soft fruit for dehydrating.
Our tree is a Blenheim which requires no pollinator and has low chill requirements for fruit set. Check your area’s Master Gardener Web site for apricot varieties that do well in your particular climate. Apricots do best if they are pruned after harvest while the weather is dry. Eutypa is fungal disease that is spread through pruning wounds in wet weather.
More things to know about the growth and fruiting of apricots: Apricots (and plums) have flower buds that are lateral in position, whereas leaf buds are both terminal and lateral. Apricots (and plums) initiate their flower buds in late summer, and flower before the leaves are present. Flower buds are produced on the current season’s shoots and on 2-year and older spurs (which are stubby). One flower is produced from each flower bud. Avoid removing too much older wood, because that bears the bulk of the fruit. Pay attention to the location of the spurs and leave enough for a reasonable crop of fruit. Please consult this UC pruning link where I found and reworded much of the above paragraph. (In grad school we footnoted. On blogs, credit where credit is due, right?)
Nutrition: Apricots are a great source of vitamin A and C, potassium, and fiber. Apricots bought in the store do contain a fairly high pesticide load. In fact, apricots make the dirty dozen list. Plant your own tree or buy organic!