Saturday, January 9, 2016

January 9 is National Apricot Day

January 9 is National Apricot Day
Apricot Blossoms, © B. Radisavljevic
National Apricot Day is definitely a celebration I can get excited about, since apricots are one of my favorite fruits. That's why we planted an apricot tree years ago. Some years it gives us apricots, and some years it gives us none, or almost none. Each apricot we get begins like this as a blossom. This photo was taken in March. Since apricots blossom and ripen later in the year, I wonder why January 9 is National Apricot Day.

January 9 is National Apricot Day
Apricot Blossoms
© B. Radisavljevic

When the tree produces blossoms, the bees come to do their pollination job. Gradually the petals fall away and we see small fruits forming. Unfortunately, I wasn't  in the garden at the right time to photograph these stages of the apricots' development. By late April the fruits sometimes get to this stage. This photo was taken on May 1.

Depending upon the weather each year, the apricots ripen by June or July and turn the beautiful orange color that lets us know they are ready to pick and eat. Nothing tastes better than a perfectly ripe apricot straight from the tree. But a dried apricot almost equals it. If you want to see some of my ripe apricots on the tree, click the related post, "Apricots Blossoms Make My Heart Happy" below.

January 9 is National Apricot Day
Apricots and Lemon Cucumbers
 at Farmers Market, Templeton,
in June, © B. Radisavljevic
By June and July you will start seeing local apricots for sale at farmers market. This photo was taken at the Templeton farmers market on June 14, 2014. As it comes to the end of the fresh apricot season, the dried apricots will start appearing in the farmers markets.

Buying fresh apricots anywhere but at a farmers market is tricky. Sometimes you can find ripe ones, but most supermarket apricots are picked before they reach peak ripeness. Even if you let them sit on the counter for a while, they may not ever get really ripe. I'm sure that some people may not have ever tasted a fully ripe apricot. I was spoiled because my dad planted an apricot tree in garden of the house where I grew up, and I had always eaten my apricots straight from the tree.

If you are lucky enough to have one or more apricot trees on your property, you know that sometimes more ripen than you can eat without some sort of preservation. You can freeze them, can them, make jam or preserves, or dry them. If you want to can or make preserves, be sure you have the bible of canning -- The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Having one or more of the items below can also be a big help at harvest time.

I personally prefer drying to canning because there is less mess and dehydrators are much lighter and easy to work with than canners full of water. I got my own dehydrator on a freecycle list, but I would certainly prefer the Nesco Snackmaster you see below. It has a better air circulation system, an adjustable temperature control, and a handy recipe book included so you  will know how to dehydrate whatever produce you have on hand. Best of all, the flavors of the food on different trays don't mix. I'm so old now that it doesn't make sense to invest in a new dehydrator, but if I were a few years younger or if I had lots of produce to deal with, I would definitely  trade up.

I love apricot jam, and used to make it when I was younger had a more reliable apricot crop. I always used a water-bath canner similar to the one below, except the one below comes with everything you need to get started. I had to buy my supplies piece by piece. If you plan to can vegetables or meats, though, you need a pressure canner. I only canned fruit.

If you decide to can your apricots or make jam or preserves, why not customize some of these labels to make your full jars into attractive gifts?

Now dream about ripe apricots or plant an apricot tree during this bareroot planting season to make your dreams come true.
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