Sometimes, I go to great effort to try to protect the fruit from squirrels.
This chicken-wire basket worked. And was worth it. This is the only fruit the Hunza apricot tree has had since either 2010 (when we were away, so I would not know) or 2009 (when it had several fruits, before being transplanted to our current location).
It is an incredibly richly flavored fruit, and also has an edible kernel. (See previous discussions.)
The ‘Earli Autumn’ apricots are quite large this year, and already close to ripe.
The ‘Earli Autumn’ is the trunk at the right of the photo, while the one to the left is another late-ripening apricot, known as ‘Autumn Glo.’ This latter variety has only a few fruits this year, and they are going to ripen somewhat later, is obvious from their lack of any ‘glo’ thus far.
Finally, in the category of late-ripening apricots we have the ‘Autumn Royal.’
This fruit always has a tendency to crack before it can ripen, and the fruit has also attracted considerable interest from snails. I am not confident that I’ll get to harvest any of these. From past experience, it is by far the tastiest of the three late varieties. Oh well.
The Mesh Mesh Amrah had a pretty good crop, and ripened earlier than usual. Pictured here on the last day of May, part way through the harvest period.
And the Flavorella, always somewhat of a shy bearer, had a better crop than usual (pictured on 5 June).
The Mesh Mesh Amrah has gotten so big (even with my regular pruning) that I can hardly believe that it is the same tree that I dug up, with some assistance from my wife, from our old place in Carlsbad in 2002. (I still had a relatively healthy back at the time.)
Plumcots have such a distinctive flavor–clearly a best of both worlds!
The Hunza apricot has a dozen or so fruits this year. No, that is not a big crop, but it is more than I ever really expected. This was not, by reputation, a variety likely to succeed here. But reputation never keeps the scientific farmer from an experiment!
The fruit is barely noticeable in the photo, because only a few of them (lower branch to the right) yet have any color beyond green. But most of them are quite large (which should mean a good sized tasty kernel inside!). And it was time to (try to) protect them from other species that co-habit at the finca.
So, now the tree is netted, after a little summer pruning to control size and help fit the netting over it. Note also the metal wrapped around the trunk, which sometimes seems to help (a little bit) with climbing rodents.
Behind the Hunza are a grapefruit tree and a “volunteer” Coast Live Oak. I fear the latter is going to need to be cut down, which I would hate to do to a native. But I have many others–opportunists growing on the water of the grapefruit grove and actually more valuable in many ways than grapefruit–and this one will soon provide too much shade and competition for the Hunza and the nearby corralito.
Now certainly is a good time for summer pruning, given that it is officially–axially–summer! At sundown, it also will be Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, so this year the day of maximum light* will have to wait a couple of weeks past the solstice.
(And, an aside: contrary to what I had thought, Hunza is in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, and thus near, but not in, the Swat region.)
* Assuming the gloom stays away–which, this year, is not a safe assumption.
I think this is the first bloom ever on the White Gold cherry.
This is a variety I planted as an experiment a few years ago, because it is a lesser known variety that is supposed to be self-fruitful,* and has some ‘Stella’ parentage. Stella always blooms well here (though fruit is another matter–our damp and gloomy late spring season is not cherry-friendly).
The tree looks like it may have more blooms yet to come. Meanwhile, the Stella and Royal Rainier (another somewhat reliable bloomer) are both near their peak blooms. There is also one bloom each on Bing and Craig’s Crimson, but these (not self-fruiful) varieties have fooled me before with their few flowers.
* For some reason some self-fruitful cherries seem to be able to set fruit in mild climates like ours, whereas those that need cross-pollination seem to need more chill as well.
After a winter with on-and-off again chill (two pretty good cold periods of about two weeks each sandwiching an exceptionally hot January). the Hunza apricot is in full bloom. When I planted this tree three years ago, I didn’t necessarily count on getting fruit. It was very much an experiment. The tree had a few blooms a year after planting, but no fruit. Last year it had a sporadic bloom, and actual fruit (and tasty kernels, albeit without the amaretto complexity, to enjoy later). Having our own Hunzas is probably the most exciting and rewarding fruit-growing experience I have had. This year the bloom is amazing. This does not guarantee a good crop, of course, but it certainly is promising. The catalog said the Hunza’s chill factor was unknown but “probably high.” But don’t believe everything you read in catalogs!
One of my other favorite stone fruits, the Shaa Kar Pareh, has bloomed quite well this spring. The bloom period is about over now, and there is some fruit set. (This variety is generally understood to be relatively “low chill.”)
The Canadian White Blenheim had its first ever crop (just a few fruits) last summer. Spring, 2008, was also the first in which it had a ‘normal‘ bloom, by which I mean flowers appearing ahead of the leaves, as is typical of stone fruits. In the two or three previous years following planting, this variety had a habit I had never seen in an apricot before: being fairly well leafed out and then starting to bloom. And no fruit those years.
This year it has done a little of both. It had very few blooms appear before any leaves, and then burst out into a pretty good bloom after most of the leaves had appeared. It will be interesting to see if any fruit sets, and if so, if it is only on the buds that opened the early flowers.
Meanwhile, the Moorpark (my favorite of the ‘apricot’ apricots–the others mentioned so far being more or less ‘white‘) looks very bad. It has the classic symptoms of inadequate chill: delayed foliation and minimal bloom (just one so far, in fact). (No photo: it’s not a pretty sight!)
Of course, as usual, the Newcastle bloomed early and well, and has fruit set. The regular Blenheim went ‘crazy’ and already has needed some fruitlet-thinning. The two newer fall ripeners (Earli Autumn and Autumn Glo) have had minimal blooms (nothing unusual there, in my experience), while the old favorite variety, Autumn Royal, which is in its second year at the finca, has set some fruit. The Royal Rosa and Flavor Delight (the latter an aprium) set well, as usual.
It will be some months till stone-fruit season arrives (the end of the first week of July, if last season is a guide), and a spring set is no guarantee of anything. But my mouth already waters at the sight of these blooms and baby fruits–especially that Hunza!
Peak apricot season has arrived within the past week. And that’s always one of the best seasons of the year!
The ‘Newcastle’ reached its peak this year a little later than usual–first week of July rather than end of June. A very heavy crop again, as usual. And always one of the best tasting–at least of the apricot apricots (that is, those with “apricot”-color flesh).
This year, we also have several varieties of “white” apricot.
We had a few fruits on this ‘Shaa Kar Pareh’ apricot last year, but this year the crop is quite heavy. This is an amazing fruit, and they are not even fully ripe yet. So sweet, they are edible even while still a little on the firm side. Incredibly juicy and with a tang that might lead you to think it was a plumcot, rather than an apricot.
We also have fruit on the ‘Canadian White Blenheim.’ This is actually not as white as the Shaa Kar Pareh’ but it certainly is paler in color than any “ordinary” apricot, and also distinctive in flavor. It has never set before for us, even though it has bloomed in some of its five previous springs since planting. What a treat!
Exciting as all the above is here at Ladera Frutal, nothing in Ladera Frutal history quite beats the thrill of harvesting one’s own Hunzas!
It had only three fruits, but this tree has earned its keep on just those three precious apricots. I have previously had ‘Hunza’ apricots only dried, imported from Pakistan, where they are a staple of the diet in some of the valleys of their origin. The dried fruit has a sugary intensity unlike any other dried apricot, and the fresh ripe fruit is just intense! It is amazingly sweet, very juicy and just packed full of flavor unlike any stone fruit I have ever eaten before. It also is one of the largest apricots you will ever see. To top it all off, the kernels are edible, too. (I have not yet cracked open the pits, but that’s on the to-do list.)
Here are a cut Shaa Kar Pareh (left) and a Hunza alongside the pit of another Hunza. There should be a tasty little kernel inside that pit!
(We did not yet have any ripe White Blenheims at the time I took that photo.)
I am not sure if the ‘Hunza’ really qualifies as a white apricot, but I think I have seen it so-classified. It certainly is paler than your typical apricot. Let’s just call it an unbelievably delicious apricot and leave it at that!
Yes, this has been a good year for apricots! And here I have not even gotten into the ‘Flavor Delight’ aprium and ‘Royal Rosa’ apricots earlier in the season, or the ‘Autumn Glo’ and ‘Earli Autumn’ yet to come. Nor did I even mention ‘Royal’ (small crop this year, just about done now, but not to be forgotten).
The Royal Rosa, the first of our ten or so apricot varieties to ripen, is now at its peak. It probably ranks near the bottom of our varieties in flavor, which is only to say that while the others range from outstanding to truly phenomenal, the Royal Rosa is merely excellent.1 Of course, any minor deficiencies the variety has in flavor it at least compensates for by being so far out front of the top varieties in its harvest season.
The crop this year is exceptionally heavy. In the background, you can see the Mesch Mesch Amrah “black apricot” which is really a natural plumcot (Prunus x dasycarpa). We just harvested the first of this tree’s typically light crop in recent days. Another plumcot (not pictured), the Flavorella, also is now ripening–and also has its typically light crop, but by far its best in five years since planting.2
Just as the Royal Rosa is reaching its peak (it was much heavier than this a few days ago), we have begun receiving the first fruits of the Flavor Delight aprium.3 The aprium tastes a lot like a really richly flavored apricot, and looks like a really large one. Its crop is heavy, and typically so. It is one of the most reliable apricot-family varieties we have, right up there with Newcastle, which will begin ripening about the time the apriums are done.
Summer is here, in fruiting terms.
Katy is the only one I have that I would consider getting rid of; if you like subacid apricots, you might like Katy. Ours did not set fruit this spring–no loss, but surprising given the high chill of the past winer and the heavy set on almost all of our other stone fruits. [↩]
There has been some talk, including here at F&V, that maybe this variety needs an apricot such as Goldkist–a variety I do not have here–for cross-pollination. Maybe so, but it did set just under a dozen fruit this year. (It is always a heavy bloomer.) That’s not many fruits, but we’ll gladly take them! As for Goldkist, it never fruited for me well in Carlsbad by the Sea, despite its being claimed as one of the lowest-chill varieties that is alleged to be best for the coast. I always had better crops there on Newcastle and often on Royal/Blenheim. Goldkist is a good tasting variety, though I would not put it in my top 7. [↩]
Also a plum-apricot cross, but like a pluot, one that does not occur naturally. Unlike a pluot, it leans more in flavor and appearance towards its apricot lineage. And for anyone who may be wondering, it is not GMO; I would have none of that in my organic orchard or, knowingly, in my food supply! It is human-assisted hybridization, but done by Zaiger Gentics the (relatively) old fashioned way: controlled transfer of pollen from one variety to another–in this case, multiple varieties over several generations (thus known as a complex hybrid). The Flavorella is also hybridized under controlled conditions, rather than naturally occurring like the Mesch Mesch Amrah. [↩]
These are even more–far more–luscious to eat than to look at. These are Emerald Beaut plums. It is incredible enough that, with this variety, we can actually be harvesting plums in the second half of October. It is even more incredible how rich and sweet the flavor of this plum is.
At 500-600 chill hours, it isn’t something that can be grown just anywhere. While it had bloomed in the two previous years (it was planted in 2003), it had never brought fruit all the way to maturity before. (It had set a few here and there in past years, but they all dropped.) So, I can’t say whether it really needs closer to 600 chill hours–which we certainly got this past winter, and then some!–or if it might just be entering its peak bearing age. I sure hope it’s the latter. I don’t need as heavy a crop as we had this year, but I sure hope to get this great taste annually.
Also remarkable is not only the lateness, but also the length of the season of this plum. I harvested the first ones as one of our Rosh HaShanah “first fruits” and, while that one was well short of fully ripe, it was certainly good. We have been getting fruit of full ripeness and sweetness since shortly thereafter, and there are still a few left on the tree that are not quite ripe yet. They also keep off the tree, if harvested slightly under-ripe, much better than most plums. One drawback has been that a significant number of the fruits have had some sort of fungus or other problem that I have not seen before–the affected fruit develops reddish patches. If said fruit continues to ripen, it is fine. But some of these fruits have then wrinkled and shriveled without ripening.
It really is a “beaut.” But “emerald”? Most of the summer, yes, but they have not been really good to eat until they have turned this reddish-tinged yellow.
In an earlier planting, I showed what the tree and its heavy load of fruit looked like at the end of August (the third photo at that link).
The Aprium tree has a really heavy crop this year. The fruits are fantastically rich in flavor, better than any orange-fleshed apricot (other than perhaps Moorpark).
An Aprium is a complex hybrid of plum and apricot that leans genetically in the latter direction. They are thus cousins of pluots, which are likewise complex hybrids but are much closer to plums. This variety–and so far the only available variety, as far as I know–is ‘Flavor Delight.’ It may not be a very inspiring name, but it most certainly is accurate.
In the first photo, the companion tree at the right is a ‘Katy’ apricot, which had a very light crop this year, but much tastier than usual. Normally I am less than impressed with Katy, which is too sub-acid for my taste. In front, with the reddish leaves, is the re-growth of the ‘Citation’ semi-dwarf rootsock on a tree that originally had both ‘Royal Rosa’ and ‘Tomcot’ on it, both of which died. I recently replaced the Royal Rosa, which had its first crop this year. It is the best early apricot I know of (although Flavor Delight, for all practical purposes an apricot, is also quite early). I hope soon to secure some scion wood of an apricot variety not currently in the collection and graft on to the rootstock sprout.
Our Department of Fruitland Security has tried many things–with mixed success–to keep squirrels and other rodents, as well as birds, from getting the fruit before the humans can harvest and enjoy it. But a snake in the tree could be the most effective yet.
The problem with the snake-in-the-tree solution is, of course, that the snake doesn’t like to hang around in one spot. This one did, however–literally. It got itself caught in the bird netting draped over the cherry tree. To say the least, it was quite a shock for your orchardist as he went to harvest the cherries and was just about to sit down on the ground underneath the tree to untie the netting when he noticed the snake! (And I will admit that snakes give me the willies bad. I’ll put the photo on the inside branch in deference to others with the snake-willies. Click “more” at own risk!) (more…)
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4