Angelcots, The Sweet White Apricot

white apricots

Sometimes when I buy fruit at the Farmers Market the vendor will put a couple more pieces of small fruit in the bag after he weighs what I have selected. A nice gesture but sometimes its something that I don’t like (yes there are fruits I’m not crazy about.) or it might be something I may not have even tried before. That’s what recently happened. I carefully selected some white nectarinesDonut peaches and apricots placing them carefully in my market bag.  After weighing my purchase the vendor popped three small light colored fruits that were shaped like apricots into the bag, saying as he handed it to me, “they are very sweet, you would like them”. I was curious as to what they were but didn’t ask and didn’t think about them again until I was shopping at Trader Joe’s later that morning and saw a plastic container, in the fresh fruit section, with fruit that looked just like the ones I was given, that was labeled Angelcots. Humm, wonder if that could be the same thing he put in with the fruit I bought at the Farmers Market?

sliced white apricots

The difference in color between white apricots and Blenheim apricots.

Turns out it was. The fruit is truly angelic, tasting light, sweet and juicy.  After trying these sweet gifts, I wished I had a lot more than the three I was given.

Remembering the plastic container of Angelcots at Trader Joe’s I made a trip across town to get some and give them a try. Sure enough, they tasted the same and now I had more than three to enjoy. I ate them out of hand as snacks whenever I passed the kitchen counter where they lay seductively waiting for my visits and tried them cut into quarters topped with Greek yogurt and roasted sliced almonds for breakfast. They were gone all too soon but definitely not forgotten. You can bet I’ll be looking to buy more at the market this weekend if I can find them.

I hope you can find them at a market near you. If you do, give em a try. You just might discover why they were named Angelcots.

To learn more about the history of the Angelcot check out this Nov 2002 SF Gate article on Ross Sanborn the passionate pomologist, who after receiving the white apricot seeds from a cousin’s husband who was living and working in Iran in the late 70s, planted the seeds at his home in Lafayette, CA, and as they say “the rest is history”.

Angelcot article link

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What Makes it an Heirloom?

sliced heirloom tomatoes

Sliced heirloom tomatoes

Ever wonder why certain tomatoes are called heirloom while others aren’t. You can look to the definition of the word heirloom, “A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.”, for the answer.

heirlooms at the farmers market

Heirloom tomatoes being sold at the Sacramento Farmers’ Market grown by Lawrence Farms in Oroville, CA.

Heirlooms are grown from seeds that have been collected, saved and passed down through generations. Every heirloom tomato variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates.

Black Cherry tomatoes

Black cherry heirloom tomatoes growing in a pot in my backyard. These are larger than the typical cherry tomatoes you might think of and when fully ripe, dark in color like the Cherokee.

Supermarket hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, have been carefully crossbred to produce characteristics like; resistance to pests and diseases and firm flesh and thick skin so they can be machine harvested. Most hybrids are harvested while green and are ripened to redness with ethylene gas.

Abraham Lincoln heirloom

The other heirloom I’m growing this year is Abraham Lincoln. It’s medium in size and will be bright red when fully ripened. I can hardly wait to try this one.

Heirlooms often produce less fruit per plant and when grown organically they are more susceptible to fungus which can make them crack and split.They also tend to be soft skinned requiring hand harvesting. Heirloom crop yields tend to be one-third or less that of hybrid tomato crops. So, more labor to produce them and less production due to their genetic makeup, in most cases, equals higher prices when we buy them. But, if you grow them yourself you still might have the disease problems inherent in the variety you try but you’ll probably get more than enough delicious tomatoes to make you smile for the summer and you can save some seeds to use next season. I’d call that a win, win.

grilled cheese with tomato and basil

Grilled Gruyere cheese sandwich with sliced heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on a seeded wheat bread. The perfect lunch for an atypical rainy California summer day.

For me the test for any tomato is taste. If it looks perfect but doesn’t taste like a tomato, what’s the point in eating it? Give me a heirloom that is raised locally and allowed to ripen on the vine. That’s what I call a tomato. Oh, one more thing – Please, please don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge. It just kills their flavor.

Chillin on a Hot Day

A forecast of 107°F more than caught my eye as I checked the weekend weather. Not liking what I saw, I quickly started checking where the nearest cool weather would be. The mountains were an option but coolest temperatures would be at the coast so that’s where I headed. Up early, I packed a lunch and left the valley missing both the heat and traffic arriving at Point Reyes National Seashore, via some interesting back roads, about two and a half hours later. I had made the right choice it was perfect in the areas I visited, avoiding the fog at one of my favorite beaches in favor of sun and some gusty winds but cool temperatures at Abbotts Lagoon an area I hadn’t visited in a while. The crowds were minimal, the wildflowers plentiful. The walk out to the beach was breezy but the winds at the beach itself were gusty which made for some great wave watching and it wasn’t hot or too cold, so I was happy to sit and enjoy my time there.

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After poking around Point Reyes for most of the day it was time to start heading back towards what I feared would be an inferno, home. After trying out a couple of new back roads I ended up in Petaluma and remembered that the Petaluma Farmers Market takes place on Saturday. I decided to swing by Walnut Park and see if the market was still going. It was, so of course I stopped to check it out. Getting out of the car I couldn’t help noticing the warmer temperature. It wasn’t exactly hot, not like it would be at home but it was definitely much warmer than it had been on the coast.

DSCN4186The market was in full swing with some great live music coming from the old fashioned bandstand that sits in the park’s center and a good variety of vendors selling fish, veggies, fruit and crafts eager to share their products.

musicians at Pentaluma

I like to cruise the whole market before buying, checking not only prices but also freshness and variety as I go. I had almost completed my observation round when I saw exactly what I wanted, ice cream. Not just any ice cream, locally made Nimble & Finn’s Ice Cream, made using organic Straus Dairy milk and cream and local produce. An ice cream that would bring back memories of homemade, hand cranked custard ice cream studded with fresh summer fruit. There were only five choices but there may as well have been ten. 

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They all sounded worthy of trying. Now all I had to do was make a decision. First, I tried the Strawberry Rhubarb sorbet but it wasn’t what I wanted, then I tried the Honey & Roasted Apricot Swirl. It was the perfect blend of sweet and tart, creamy and cold. I was in heaven. I carried my cone to a nearby table, in the shade, and sat people watching, which was by the way excellent, listening to the music and slowly enjoying every lick of my luscious ice cream cone. The perfect ending to a perfect get-away.

Honey Apricot ice creamMore on the Petaluma Farmers’ Market can be found here.

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Veggies for Breakfast

Zepher squash blossomsMy garden is thriving and has already started producing squash. Many folks don’t like summer squash, but I do and have learned, over the years, to use it in various ways. This spring I planted two kinds of squash, Zephyr, which I have planted in the past and Papaya Pear which is advertised as fast growing, high yielding plant that bears small, rounded yellow fruits. So far the Papaya is exactly as advertised. It’s also very tasty.

DSCN4168On the mornings I pick squash, which right now is about every other day or so,  I use it in a veggie scramble. It’s a great way to incorporate fresh veggies into your morning meal.  This mornings combination included; chopped sweet onions, sliced crimini mushrooms, grated summer squash, cubed Halvarti cheese, and two eggs. I topped the finished scramble with chopped garlic chives and crumbled sage leaves that had been sauteed in butter and olive oil until crisp. The best thing about a scramble is you use what you have on hand. The only constant is the eggs.  If you’ve never considered using fresh veggies in a scramble for breakfast you should give it a try. It’s a very yummy way to start the day.

The squash, garlic chives and sage came from my garden. The mushrooms, onions, and eggs came from my local Farmers’ Market.