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What Happened to Apricots?

March 7, 2016

It’s been cold and dreary here in Portland. Emotionally, I’ve been sailing over spring and thinking about summer, particularly the sunny summers of my childhood in California. I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, famous for fruit production before the massive orchards were ripped up and asphalted over to make room for the Silicon Valley. Jack London wrote about the astonishing fertility of a valley so famous for fruit that it prompted my ancestors to migrate from the Azores to work the orchards and canneries. Many people had fruit trees on their property, resulting in a steady supply of cherries, apples, pears, oranges. But when I close my eyes and thing about those warm summer months, it’s apricots I think about.

           

Back in the sixties, teens were allowed to work the orchards during summer months if they had a FWP—Farmers Work Permit. Most of the kids I knew, including my older brother, obtained their first job picking or processing apricots. Apricots were hard to pick; positioning tall rickety ladders was backbreaking, and at twenty-five cents a bucket it was difficult to earn much money.    

           

I never picked them, but I cut “cots” and spread them on wood trays for drying. We were paid fifty cents to cover trays approximately 4x6 feet, a task made difficult for a chubby kid who ate nearly as many “cots” as he cut.

 

Which brings me to the reason I’m writing about apricots. Where have they gone? Granted, I no longer live in California but I do live in the Willamette Valley where fruit is plentiful. My mother loves apricots, particularly baked into desserts. There was a time when markets and bakeries were loaded with apricot pies, cookies and pastries. It’s still possible to find apricot jams and jellies, but it seems baked apricot items are becoming as elusive as dodos. A few years back while traveling in Turkey, I noticed vast areas covered with apricot orchards. Roadside stands sold not only apricots but roasted apricot seeds, which I’d never sampled and were delicious. I was reminded of my Santa Clara summers, the hot air ripe with the sweet scent of apricots.

           

Portland is famous for its farm to table cuisine, and sometimes farmer’s markets have apricots, but none of the merchants peddling pies and pastries feature them. These days, most packages of dried apricots, once produced in California, are imported.  

           

There’s an old woman I know who keeps pestering me to find her an apricot pie. Mrs. Chatterbox has offered to bake her one, but baking isn’t Mrs. C’s strong suit. Besides, if my wife took the trouble to bake her a pie, my mother would be typically critical and I’d be tempted to emulate Soupy Sales and….

 

 

 

            Do you like apricots, and are they easy to find where you live?

 

 

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
My grade school chum and her sweetie of over 50 years! ) have a small acreage in Los Altos with a few still living apricot trees. The property used to be an apricot orchard but over 40 years ago it was broken up and developed. They still pick and dry their apricots and we still get a few bags of dried apricots every year. I love them! I never have used the apricots for anything but a finger food snack -or maybe in a fruit salad. I actually prefer juicy peaches.
By: KatheW. on March 7, 2016
Never really liked apricots. They remind me of peaches. Which I don't particularly care for, either. Oh my, ain't I a fuss budget?
By: Al Penwasser on March 7, 2016
I'm with you , Steve. Apricots are hard to find and when found, very expensive. I have yet to find someone with a tree. Most stores around here only carry dried apricots from Turkey. Once I found fresh, plump ones, so I bought a bag dreaming of the juicy sweet ones we had as kids. Alas, they were juicy, but no flavor.
By: Linda on March 7, 2016
I've seen them in the store before, but not often. And I don't think I've ever seen an apricot pie. Haven't eaten many because they're small and peaches give you a little more bang for the buck.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 7, 2016
I have an apricot tree in my back yard. The last two years there was a bumper crop. It remains to be seen if there will be any fruit this year. You are welcome to come pick them.
By: Uncle Skip on March 7, 2016
I love apricots, too!! Maybe we should organize a search party?
By: fishducky on March 7, 2016
I really like Apricots , there are fresh ones available here , however I usually buy them dried.
By: John on March 7, 2016
I mostly like dried apricots and use them in a pasta salad I make. never had an apricot pie but one of the recipes I used to make was my great grandmother's apricot fried pies using dried apricots. don't care for them fresh too much.
By: on March 7, 2016
oops, forgot the identifying info above.
By: ellen abbott on March 7, 2016
Now that you mention it--no I haven't seen them. Do you suppose they have gone extinct? I enjoyed the dried ones but even they are gone. Sigh.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 7, 2016
I, too really like apricots but haven't noticed if they are or aren't available locally. It's one of the foods that seem to have gone out of vogue. Funny how foods have gone MIA from the American diet and been replaced by others. Now when I cook (and I cook a lot) there is always some ingredient that I don't have or worse...never heard of. This morning I was reading a recipe for "ramps" (a type of onion) What the hell? A few years ago I wouldn't of needed cumin or sriracha but now it's in recipes all the time. What happen to things like paprika?
By: Cheryl P. on March 7, 2016
Fruit in season tastes the best... IMHO. I do enjoy apricots fresh and dried. My wife picked up some Kiwi recented... tasteless.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 7, 2016
I love apricots but they certainly don't grow in Alberta!
By: red on March 7, 2016
we had a lot of fruit trees when i was growing up. peaches, nectarines, plums, oranges and of course apricots. when i moved out of home i had the oldest apricot tree with the best tasting fruit. it finally rotted away and had to be removed. in australia we are spoilt with summer fruits but i must admit i rarely buy apricots. they just don't taste the same. we used to stew them and have them with icecream when i was a kid. we don't see as many fruit trees in backyards these days which is a pity. i'm trying to grow an avocado tree but i'm not having much luck. it's autumn here and i can't wait for some cooler weather. the summer has been hotter than usual this year.
By: Fran on March 7, 2016
Now that you mention it...I can't remember the last time I saw apricots in the produce section of the store. Of course that might be because I'm not looking for them. I remember years ago I bought dried apricots to make apricot brandy to give out as Christmas presents.
By: Pixel Peeper on March 7, 2016
Sometimes i see apricots around here, but mostly it's the dried ones. Do you have a friend whose specialty is baking? That person you might pay to bake a pie for your mother. She might like it if you tell her you bought it.
By: messymimi on March 7, 2016
What happened to apricots? My theory is that they're all being used up in jars of baby food, and as a stewed side dish on hospital meal trays.
By: Val on March 7, 2016
My mom loves apricots! We live in a fruit belt and surrounded by wineries. What do they do with this amazing fertile ground? Rip out the fruit trees and create a freeway ( the Queen Elizabeth Freewayor the Queen E as we call it), put in tons of sub-divisions and plazas with a haircut tears, pizza place and a convenience store. Sad isn't it?
By: Birgit on March 7, 2016
We didn't have any apricots around to pick, but I have spent my time in strawberry fields covered with rock and the plants growing out from between. No, they did not look like the strawberry fields around Oxnard,
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on March 7, 2016
I love apricots and we can get them, in season, at our local markets. So, I guess the "old woman [you] know" is your mother, huh? Did you ever hear the Soupy Sales routine with White Fang when Soupy writes the letter F?
By: Mitchell Is Moving on March 8, 2016
Apricots are rare here on the east coast stores and I also rarely see pastries. It is definitely a more European favorite. I wonder if the wars have something to do with that?
By: Tabor on March 8, 2016
They're okay and easy to find here, yes!
By: Michael Manning on March 8, 2016
They were fine.I just didn't have occasion to eat them that much.
By: MICHAEL MANNING on March 14, 2016
Nobody who has found apricots, either dried or fresh, has mentioned where they are or where they got them. I am jonesing for some of either. Please let me know where to get the good ones.
By: Cathy please don\'t spam me on May 8, 2016

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