Thomas J. Story
More: Your canning guide
Fresh Apricot Crisp
A crunchy topping sets off Blenheims ― so flavorful you don't have to add much to them.
Chilled Poached Halibut with Fresh Apricot Salsa
Mustard seeds give the salsa a nutty richness.
These biscotti are crumbly delivery systems for chewy apricot bits, hunks of dark chocolate, and crunchy almonds.
Grilled Apricot-stuffed Leg of Lamb
The dried apricots swell and soften with the Moroccan-spiced juices of the roasting lamb.
It's not the most perfect-looking apricot, the Blenheim. Its thin skin sometimes has a greenish hue. Being unusually delicate, it's often also slightly bruised.
None of this really matters. Because inside, it's the deep orange of a setting sun, with a silky texture and a taste so rich and tangy-sweet it makes ordinary apricots difficult to take seriously. This extraordinary flavor is what made the Blenheim (sometimes called the Royal) the dominant variety in California until the 1950s.
That's when modern long-distance shipping began to require harder, more durable varieties, and the Blenheim ― so named because it was thought to have emerged from the gardens of England's Blenheim Palace ― began to fade from the market shelves, replaced by bigger, tougher, rosy-cheeked apricots that usually have about as much flavor as ice plant. Most of our remaining Blenheims are grown in Northern and central California, and you can still find them fresh there during their brief season in late June and early July, mainly at farmers' markets.
Or your can go straight to a farm itself. B&R Farms, a family operation in San Benito County, has been growing Blenheims since 1929, and owners Jim and Mari Rossi welcome visitors. Mari knows that if enough people taste this fragile fruit, it might hang on: "Once you get ahold of a Blenheim, it completely changes your recipe."
Most of B&R's apricots end up dried, their deliciousness made sturdier. But during harvest, you can buy them fresh from the farm's store if you call ahead. The second you step out of the car, you'll be wrapped in the perfume of warm, sweet, ripe apricots ... a prelude to the fruit itself.