I go grocery shopping two or three times a week. Since I was traveling for five days last week, my refrigerator was completely empty Sunday night when I returned, so I went to my local store on Monday evening to stock up.
WOW – the produce department looked completely different this week! Summer is definitely on its way. The big displays of apples were moved to the back to make room for first of the season nectarines, peaches, plums/pluots and apricots.
The apricots really caught my eye because they looked so fresh and the color was so pretty — a pale orangey-gold, almost a pale salmon. Earlier that day, at the office, our Forager, Mary, had returned from a farmers market and brought us samples of the Poppy Cot variety of apricot.
One of our buyers got out his produce knife* and cut one in half. He offered me a taste. (*Produce buyers frequently carry “produce knives” in their pockets as they often will need to cut open a fruit or vegetable to check the quality or taste on a moment’s notice.)
I was a little hesitant, because my favorite apricots — a white-fleshed variety called Angelcots® — are not available for another month, and really nothing tastes as good to me as Angelcots®. (I will let you all know when they come back in season, around June 25). But, here I was being offered a taste, so like a good produce person, I took it.
They actually tasted good! They were juicy, but firm. They had a fresh, earthy true apricot flavor. And because they are small they will be perfect to include in my daughter’s lunch.
When was the last time you tasted a fresh, first of the season apricot? I’m sure it’s been a year, because I do believe that apricots taste best at the beginning of their season.
You should know that many different varieties of Apricots are harvested during the summer season. You can usually tell if an apricot will be good if it looks fresh and is not wrinkled. Find out when your produce manager gets his delivery and try to pick apricots, or any tree fruit, as soon as they arrive at the store.
Apricots usually taste best if you keep them out on the counter. They will soften a bit, but not as much as a peach. Then you should eat them within a day or two. I do not recommend putting apricots in the refrigerator, because the alternating temperatures (warm at the store, cold in your fridge) can make them turn mushy.
And if you’ve never had a fresh apricot – try one! You may be familiar with dried apricots. To prevent discoloration when they are dried, apricots are treated with sulfites. They taste nothing like FRESH apricots!
Enjoy, and get ready for a summer filled with all kinds of delicious fruits!