Apricots are peaches’ lesser loved cousins. They are not quite as juicy, not quite as sweet, and not quite as popular as the hailed summer peaches. And I’ll be one to admit that I, too, never gave them a fair shot in the past. There’s just something about dried apricots that feels like grandparents’ food, no?
Well that’s all silly, I now realize after frequenting the farmers markets and enjoying fresh apricots. These small nuggets of early summer sensation are pretty darn delicious — they have a delicate, velvet skin and soft, slightly tart flesh. Certainly not sensuous like the peach, but more stimulating and refreshing. A good wake-up fruit to liven the senses first thing in the morning.
Apricots are bustling at California farmers’ markets right now as stone fruit season has officially arrived. They are a few weeks late in fully hitting the market, as a late spring cold snap halted maturation of the fruits across the state. So you may see slightly smaller apricots than usual, but they will be just as sweet and delicious when they ripen. And like most other fruits, apricots are absolutely best when eaten at peak ripeness. (Side note: new studies show that antioxidant levels further increase in fruits as they mature to the point of spoilage!)
I like to buy a box of apricots when I first get to the farmers market. These handheld snacks are the perfect energy bar to jumpstart a successful jaunt around the plaza. And the rest come home with me for a kitchen extravaganza — tossed into fresh summer salads and baked into soothing evening desserts.