Apricots, which probably originated in China, have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In "Gardens of New Spain," a comprehensive study of the movement …
Apricots, which probably originated in China, have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In "Gardens of New Spain," a comprehensive study of the movement of plants between the Old to the New Worlds, retired National Park Service naturalist William Dunmire cites evidence that apricots were brought to Spain by the Arabs around 1100 A.D. Spanish missionaries carried the pits first to Mexico and then to what is now New Mexico and Texas, planting orchards as they went.
Agricultural inventories conducted by missionaries to the New World show that there were apricot trees bearing fruit in and around Santa Fe by the late 1620s. Another inventory conducted in 1776 -- the same year the 13 colonies on the eastern side of the country declared independence from England -- also listed apricots among the fruits and vegetables thriving in the "Villa of Santa Fe."
Fast-forward to 2019 and apricots are again thriving in Northern New Mexico - Taos trees are heavy with the fruit as it ripens now in July. That is often not the case. Apricot trees typically bloom between early and late March in our region, while frosts can appear until mid-May. Late spring frosts, hailstorms, low water and drying winds all wreak havoc on apricot trees, killing off the blossoms before the fruit has time to set. It happens so often that some estimate we only get a good crop about once every five years.
And this is one of those years. So now the question is what to do with the bounty.
There are many delicious ways to enjoy some of that fruit now and to preserve more to carry that yellow-gold sunshine into winter. You'll find many recipes for chunky apricot jam, including one made in the Instant Pot, on the internet. Drying is another tried-and-true way to preserve stone fruits, like apricots, using a dehydrator or just your oven.
But to get the most out of your crop now, you can't beat pies, tarts, cobblers, crumbles or crisps. Cobblers, crumbles and crisps are not as beautiful as pies and tarts -- but they come together more quickly: more reward for less labor. Although recipes vary by family and region, if a baking dish is topped with biscuits, it's a cobbler. Crumbles and crisps feature streusel-like toppings, like that in the recipe that follows.
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