Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more. This post was brought to you by our friends at Evolution Fresh, who like fresh, flavorful ingredients as much as we do.
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Today: Don"t get druped into thinking that apricots aren"t anything special.
It’s probably tough to be an apricot, the unfavored stone fruit. Apricots show up early at the market, before the summer fruit party really begins; most of their family members aren"t yet ready to make an appearance. (That early arrival also means that they"re susceptible to late spring frosts and that they have very specific growing preferences to boot.) They’re smaller and less popular than peaches and nectarines, but not small enough to be as cute as cherries. They"re the black sheep of the drupes.
Ask around and you’ll find plenty of apricot deriders who"ll proclaim them bland or mealy. Some of that disdain stems from the fact that if you don’t live near the source, apricots have a reputation for inconsistent quality -- and that’s putting it nicely. In The Fruit Hunters, Adam Gollner says of most commercially produced options: “It’s almost impossible to find an apricot that doesn’t taste like coins.”
But they don’t deserve their outcast status. When you stumble upon a good one, they are superb -- sweet and meaty, with just enough tartness to balance them out. Plus, apricots are sometimes considered aphrodisiacs (Shakespeare thought so; go reread A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and only the good foods seem to earn that reputation.
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Given that most apricots we see come in a uniform shade of orange -- somewhere between the oranges of creamy orange-vanilla ice pops and small fish-shaped crackers -- it would be easy to assume that there"s only one variety of the fruit. But there are, in fact, a large number of different apricot cultivars. Start paying attention to them to find the truly special apricots. Some varieties are ever-so-modestly named (like Flavor Giant, Superb, and Perfection), some are covered in soft fuzz, and others have smooth skin. Apricots come in a variety of colors, too: some in deeper shades and some far lighter like Angelcots, with their yellow skin and sweet, almost white flesh (1).
Where to Find Apricots and How to Store ThemLook for apricots at your favorite grocery store or, if you live near where they are grown, at your farmers market. Angelcots have an especially short season, so act quickly. They"re available at Trader Joe’s nationwide, and a few other locations.
Apricots have a small window of perfect ripeness -- they’re at their best when they have a little bit of give to them. Store them on your kitchen counter, but if they’re in danger of heading past their prime, you can pop them in the fridge for a few days.
What to Do with ThemStart your day with a strawberry apricot crisp or spoon apricot compote over a bowl of yogurt. Make a batch of apricot fruit leather to snack on, but remember that apricots don’t have to be confined to sweet treats -- they’re often paired with meats like lamb or pork in savory dishes. Try them in an avocado and rye berry salad or paired with green beans and ham. Then head back to the sweet side for dessert: Toss halved apricots on the grill, and serve them with a dollop of whipped basil ricotta.
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Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use apricots?
Photos by James Ransom
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