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COLUMN: Timing is everything for fresh Blenheim apricots

The San Benito Agricultural Land Trust writes where residents can find this local 'delectable fruits.'
Enthusiastic U-Pickers at B&R Farms in 2021. Photo courtesy of B&R Farms.
Enthusiastic U-Pickers at B&R Farms in 2021. Photo courtesy of B&R Farms.
Homemade apricot jam is a San Benito County tradition. Photo by Karminder Brown.
Homemade apricot jam is a San Benito County tradition. Photo by Karminder Brown.

This column was written by the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

 

It’s Blenheim apricot season in San Benito County, but don’t blink, or you’ll miss it!  These delectable fruits are harvested from late June through mid-July. Timing is everything, if you want to enjoy them fresh.

Ask anyone over 40 years of age who has grown up in San Benito County, and they will likely have stories to tell about picking, drying, or preserving apricots from local orchards. My husband picked “cots” as a child on his great-grandfather’s farm on Fairview Road, and still makes jam every summer. 

The Blenheim apricot has been grown in this region since the early 1900’s, and is catalogued in the international Slow Food Ark of Taste. Once, it was among the most widely planted apricot varieties in California, prized for fresh eating, canning, and drying. Slow Food USA describes the Blenheim’s flavor as both sweet and tart with an intensely aromatic aroma of honeysuckle.”  

The variety began to decline by the 1960’s due to its highly perishable nature (not suitable for shipping), but has recently enjoyed a revival. While the Blenheim has all but disappeared from the Santa Clara Valley, we are fortunate that some orchards remain in San Benito County. 

The Rossi family at B&R Farms has been growing Blenheim apricots in Hollister for more than 85 years. The public is invited to their Family U-Pick days on July 9 & 10. In addition to fresh apricots for the picking, their popular apricot freezes and many other treats will be available. 

Apricot King OrchardsGonzales family in Hollister is also well-known for their fresh, dried, and preserved apricots, other fruits, and nuts. Find their products at Farmers Markets, or at their on-line store. According to their website, Apricot King Orchards expects to harvest 200 tons of fresh apricots in two weeks starting July 3. They are only available until July 11.

The Fairhaven Orchards summer farmstand is also open on Highway 25, offering fresh and dried apricots, and walnuts. Customers can stop by during hours of business, or pre-order online and schedule pick up at the farm.

Look for products made from Blenheim apricots year-round at Bertuccio’s Market, Bene Gifts, and local grocery stores. 

And don’t forget to check the menu at bakeries, ice cream parlors, and breweries for seasonal items featuring this cherished apricot. 

Want to learn more about this historic fruit with outsized flavor?  Read “For the Love of Apricots: Recipes and Memories of the Santa Clara Valley” by Saratoga author Lisa Prince Newman, or “California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley” by Robin Chapman. 

Visit www.sanbenitolandtrust.org to learn about SBALT’s important work to preserve agricultural lands and San Benito County’s agricultural heritage. 

San Benito Agricultural Land Trust