Tuesday, 22 July 2008


In these climate-changing times, the home-grown English fruit bowl gets more exotic each year. Apricots join grapes, walnuts and blueberries as the latest hot-weather crop cultivated on these shores.

The majority of apricots are still imported to the UK from the US and Europe, but there are a number of small producers in Southern England.

A member of the peach family, the apricot is a small golden-orange fruit with velvety skin and juicy flesh. They are at their peak in July so catch them why you can – although you’ll be hard pushed to find English ’cots, the lack of steady sunshine and February frosts when the plants flower have all but zapped this year’s yield.

The longer the fruit is allowed to ripen on the tree the more sweet its flavour. Note, contrary to the supermarket trend of selling “ripen-at-home” punnets of bullet-hard fruit, apricots don’t mature once picked. But you can always halve and poach under-ripe fruits in a little dessert wine and vanilla or bake with a splash of orange juice, zest and a drizzle of honey.

Apricots are delicious hot and gooey in pastries and custard tarts, and are a good match with chocolate and almonds or served alongside roast pork with the ripe fruit and spicy notes of a 2006 Heartland Viognier Pinot Gris from Oz available in Selfridges (£20.50; 0207 318 2375; selfridges.co.uk).

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