In 2016, after two weeks of watching squirrels and finches sample the fruit, we harvested 24 quarts of Royal Blenheim apricots from the two trees in our Sunnyvale garden. That’s about 3 spaghetti pots full.
What to do with 24 quarts of apricots? You do the typical things: Eat them fresh until your body rebels; Give them to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Canning is out: We didn’t make much of dent in last year’s canning. Freezing: ditto.
So this year, I will dehydrate the apricots.
Gather Your Materials
- one or more dehydrator trays
- Something to protect the fruit from browning. After cutting, many fruit will start turning brown in about 20 minutes. I use Ball Fruit-fresh Produce Protector which is mainly sugar and ascorbic acid. You could also use sugar and lemons.
Clean and Dry Your Dehydrator Trays
Prepare a tray
- Wash and drain your batch of apricots.
- Mix 2 teaspoons Produce Protector with 3 tablespoons water
- Cut apricots in half vertically using the natural dividing line on the apricot.
- Cut off any undesired pieces
- Place a tray’s worth of apricots in a bowl or cup and coat with the protecting liquid.
- Arrange apricots face-up on tray so they are not touching
- Every couple of hours, rotate the racks from top to bottom, so the fruit dry evenly
To quote from Robin Chapman’s book “California Apricots”:
Picked warm from a tree, an apricot opens into two bite-sized halves as easily as if it has a dotted line down the middle. The seed at its center infuses the core with a hint of almond…The fruit of the apricot carries the scent of citrus and jasmine, peach, gardenia, honeysuckle and cardamom. When you pop one into your mouth, the taste is rich, sweet and a little bit tart.
The apricot harvest was fair in 2016, most of it due to weather. On the plus side of weather: It was an El Nino winter, which means more rain, which is generally good. However, I neglected to apply the fungicide Kop-R-Spray at the correct time and thus paid the price: During March, a fungus attacked new branches and fruit-lets. The branches dripped sap and the fruit-lets shriveled up and get covered with fungus, like a piece of bread left too long in a bag. Aggressive pruning reduced the damage but at the cost of fruit.
On the negative side of weather, it was warmer than historic norms. Typically the flowers open the last week of February and 120 days later the fruit is ready in the last week of June. This year the flowers and fruit were 18 days early. During April we had a white fly infestation. The bottom of leaves are covered with larvae and the leaves get sticky with sap. The organic recommendation is to spray the larvae off with your hose set to “Jet”. But that would have spread the spores of the fungus! Luckily, to the rescue, came ladybugs and gold-finches, who love insect larvae.