This week is the summer solstice, and for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the longest day of the year. It is the unofficial launch of summer … and it makes me think of my two favorite, sweet summer fruits. Ironically, they are available around the longest day of the year—for a very SHORT amount of time. I think that plays into making them even more delectable.
Angelcots are a white-fleshed apricot grown in a small valley in northern California. You may be saying to yourself, “the only apricots I’ve ever had are dried, orange and kind of chewy.” Or, you may have had them from a can in syrup. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Traditional and dried apricots aren’t even remotely the same as the amazing white-fleshed heavenly apricots that are my favorite—thus the name, “Angel”cots. When our grower, Marty Maggiore, a second-generation farmer from Brentwood, Calif., first contacted us, we fell in love with him. He’s a true farmer, a little rough around the edges but passionate about his product. He grows three main products—sweet corn, cherries and Angelcots®—a trifecta of produce items that Mother Nature likes to fiddle with! Sweet corn success depends on heat coming at the right time … sweet cherries are susceptible to rain and hail … and both have a short window in late June and early July for peak season. You have to be a special, patient kind of person to be a farmer of such crops—and Marty is just that guy.
The sweet, small Angelcots Marty grows ripen on the tree and are always ready for harvest right at the peak of corn and cherry season. Poor Marty, he always has to scramble for labor to harvest his crops. (And often about the time the Angelcot fruit has set and there are small buds, we get a windstorm that blows a lot of the fruit off the trees.)
Well, this year, we lucked out! For the first time since we’ve been working together (more than 10 years now), we have a bumper crop! I am so excited to get to sample these Angelcots—they’re so juicy and flavorful that retail buyers literally stand in line to reserve the fruit before harvest.
Lychee Nuts (aka Litchi) are another unique taste sensation. They’re one of those fruits that we first started selling almost 40 years ago. I know this because our original lychee grower from Mexico—Gaspar—is still one of our suppliers! Gaspar started out as an eye doctor in Mexico but his family grew lychees. Way back then in the early 1980s, he flew to Los Angeles to meet with the only person who would talk to new growers of exotic fruits … my mother Frieda Caplan! We used to fly hundreds of boxes of his fruit during the only month fresh fruit was available—June. Last month we had a Zoom call with Gaspar, and it was so fun to be smiling at each other and reminiscing about his first visit to meet my mom at the L.A. Wholesale Produce Market. I had my eldest daughter Alex on the Zoom call with me and Gaspar had his son and daughter-in-law with him. It was truly a family affair!
Perhaps you have never tasted fresh lychee. Many people tell me the only lychee they’ve ever had is canned lychee that they get as dessert at a Chinese restaurant! All I can say is there is nothing like fresh lychee. As I walked our warehouse earlier this week, I snuck a few pieces of the fresh, spiky fruit and ate them over a trash can (as they are so juicy, you are literally covered in lychee juice as you peel the outside red skin and eat the translucent, white flesh). The super-sweet, tropical flavor is unmatched this time of year.
To grab a taste of these super-seasonal, limited summer fruits, you’ll need to hit the local stores just in time for July 4th weekend to stock up. Buyer’s tip—if you are a Costco shopper, you should find our lychee in most Costco warehouses nationwide. The season is short, so grab them when you see them! For Angelcots, stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods and Kroger will have them nationwide.
I’d love it if you discover ways to experience these fleeting summer fruits. Let me know if your Angelcot and lychee experiences are as juicy and delicious as mine.