Nothing beats a freshly picked Far West Texas apricot

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed several types of fruit that are plentiful in Far West Texas, seemingly without any type of care or attention to their growth. That comes as a surprise to me, living in the High Desert where one might think nothing much more than cacti can actually thrive.

Right now, I’m seeing apricot trees, dripping with teeny orangish-yellow fruit, in yards, roadsides and even abandoned properties. Prickly pear cactus are loaded with fruit, ready to start ripening to a bright magenta. As summer progresses, local pears will be everywhere from our grocery markets to roadside tables to my freezer.

Last year, I was in line at Porter’s and an adorable little girl of about seven or eight years old walked up to me with a brown paper lunch sack.

“Excuse me, ma’am… would you like some apricots? They’re free!” She and her sisters were politely handing out bags of apricots, under their mother’s watchful eye, to anyone that would take them. Apparently, they’d had a bumper crop and wanted to share the wealth.

No sooner did I get home with those apricots did my neighbors Lani and Dusty bring me a bag of their homegrown apricots, as they’d done the year before… and those apricots were the sweetest, most delicious little fruit. I ate fresh apricots until I couldn’t eat any more. I’d been used to only eating dried apricots, and the fresh ones were just wonderful.

Apricots are loaded with Vitamin A, which helps enhance vision and keeps our immune systems in check. They’re rich in fiber, help reduce bad cholesterol and chock-full of antioxidants. They’re just all-around good for you.

We have a hole that needs to be filled, and decided that we wanted to plant a fruit tree in it. Looking around town at what trees bear fruit, and knowing there’s an old apple orchard in town as well as another up in the Davis Mountains Resort, I was torn between apple and apricot.

I started researching how to grow an apricot tree from an apricot stone (pit), and saved every stone from my snacking. Lani and Dusty’s tree is such a prolific bearer of fruit that if I could get some babies going from that big mama tree, we’d someday have more apricots than we know what to do with.

There are many steps to get a baby apricot tree started from a stone. I’m sure arborists and fruit tree enthusiasts might read this and say, “but you forgot about this part…”  I’m just paraphrasing from memory.

You first have to scrub the skin off the stone and let it dry for a number of hours. Then, you have to use a hammer to somehow manage to crack open the rock-hard pit (there’s a reason it’s called a stone) and get to the delicate seed inside. My first attempt shot shattered stone and seed bits all over the place.

And THEN, I found THIS…

At some point, you have to freeze the seeds for 60 days because we live in a hot climate.

Then, you put them in a ziplock baggie with a wet paper towel, in a sunny window, and watch for new life to sprout from the seeds.

Next, you can plant the sprouted seed in soil and tend to it while it grows into a sapling. You can even grow them in containers.

Then, in a mere three to five years, you should get your first apricot.

Hmmm.

While I plan to experiment with growing at least half a dozen apricot trees from a stones just to see if I can, I think I’d like to go ahead and purchase an already-grown tree to stick in the hole that’s waiting to be filled. And I’m very willing to accept any fresh apricots that are gifted to me between now and our first harvest, which should be somewhere around the year 2022.

Apricot Jam

8 cups fresh apricots – peeled, pitted and crushed

¼ cup lemon juice

6 cups white sugar (pure cane if you can find it)

5 (1 pint) canning jars with lids and rings

1. Mix apricots and lemon juice in a large pot; add sugar. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook and stir until apricot mixture thickens, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary.

2. Meanwhile, prepare jars, lids and rings by cleaning and sterilizing in dishwasher or boiling water bath. Leave lids in simmering water until ready to seal jars.

3. Ladle hot jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving about ¼ inch of space on top. Run a knife or thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids and screw on rings.

4. Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot and process for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area.

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One thought on “Nothing beats a freshly picked Far West Texas apricot

  1. You had me at “apricot”!

    I grew up with a single tree and then also had one in the yard of one of our first houses. And for decades, I’ve claimed apricots as my favorite fruit. That is, until, I starting trying to buy them in grocery stores. Just not the same!

    I grew up with apricots pies (mostly one aunt that made these from her tree), fried and regular pies, too. BUT, when it comes to a fried pie, ONLY apricot ones are worthy of the calories! I scoff at the notion of an apple fried pie! Having grown up in the small town of Evant, as kids we often visited in Hamilton and ate at a barbecue place that sold apricot friend pies (though my mother made them, too). Barbecue sandwiches chased by an apricot fried pie, pretty dang awesome.

    Thanks for the memories and I, too, think I’ll plant a couple of apricot trees if ever we land at a new house. (Now that my fig tree is finally bearing fruit, time to sell the house! Right? Did the same thing with pomegranate, another favorite of mine; grew the tree until almost of fruit-bearing age and then sold house . . . but, I’ll never give up.

    Looking forward to meeting you . . . back to Alpine in August to attend the Marathon songwriter’s festival at the Gage.

    Thanks a million! Darlene P. S. I hope that you planting apricot trees means that you’ll have apricot goodies on your food menu some day!!!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Darlene Marwitz darlene@italyfever.com darlene@darlenemarwitz.com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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