It’s apricot season and I’m in heaven. Juicy, soft apricots bursting with Mediterranean warmth and flavour are all around and this year we had our own first crop. Twenty-six fruits to be precise but out of little things big things grow, and you’ve got to start somewhere. We only planted the tree last year
For me apricots have always conjured up “land of milk and honey” images; paradisical lands overflowing with almonds, dates and pomegranates alongside the apricots. More North African and Middle Eastern Med than European Med. I associate them with the delicious cuisines of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon so I’m delighted to find they grow so well in my back yard.
Apricots are one of those fruits that don’t seem to travel well; they are almost consistently disappointing when bought in England. Picked too early and shipped from warmer climes they are usually rock hard, floury and flavourless. Whereas here they are soft, juicy and packed with flavour. A ripe apricot is one of the best fruits ever and being small they are just so easy to pig out on.
I think my Aussie mum became a victim of the disappointing apricot once settled in England as she said to me a couple of years ago that she’d barely had a good one outside Australia. I was determined to bring Apricot Joy back into her life so I decided to send her some of the very best I’d tasted, from a local organic producer in Cagnes sur Mer. I remember my aunt in tropical north Queensland used to send a box of home-grown mangoes to my Gran in Sydney every year so it seemed like an entirely reasonable thing to do.
So, when I send a parcel abroad I usually forego the expensive pre-paid boxes, using good old-fashioned brown paper. But this time I reckoned the rigid packaging and the official size of the box would help get my precious cargo to its destination quickly and without unnecessary delay. I’d carefully chosen each fruit to be fully ripe in 3-4 days’ time and then individually wrapped them in kitchen paper, padded the box with bubble wrap, written the address in my best and clearest writing and sent it off without another thought. As it was a surprise for my mum I hadn’t mentioned anything though when I hadn’t heard from her after 6 days I thought something must be up as it wasn’t like her not to thank. I also thought that if they hadn’t turned up already and arrived in a day or two she might wonder why I’d sent her a box of rotting fruit. Needless to say, she hadn’t received anything. That was in June. In October, months after giving up hope, the parcel arrived – heaving, liquid and highly alcoholic! It had been via Argentina. “Argentine” not “Angleterre“! I’ve never sent fresh fruit through the post again; my mum just has to visit in apricot season.
And now I make jam to conserve the flavour of the gods.