The Sweetest Thing: Apricots

Searching for lost youth and the world’s most luscious apricots


| March/April 2012



Apricots

“Compared to the juiceless cottonwads back home, this was a dripping, pulsating life form. It seemed to have been drenched in wild honey, butterscotch, and first kisses.”

BILL PUSZTAI/WWW.BILLPUSZTAI.COM

In 1990, when communism ended in Hungary, my family moved from Montreal to Budapest. Our home overlooked a leafy schoolyard. All the neighborhood kids hung out there, including a pretty girl who lived across the grounds. She was in eighth grade, one year below me. By the end of the spring we were hooking up. We’d meet after dark, behind her apartment complex, and sneak into the boiler room, a tangled nest of steam valves, connector pipes, and looming machinery.

Walking hurriedly to our spot one June night, I jumped the school fence and found myself immersed in fragrance. I peered up. Several dozen golden apricots were dangling from the branches of a solitary tree. I’d encountered apricots before and was pretty sure they were supposed to be perfume-free. These smelled crazy, like hybrid cardamom-vanilla-jasmine flowers in full, sticky bloom.

Plucking one, I was struck by the smoothness of the skin. Instead of the usual velvety feel, this one had the glossy sheen of a nectarine or a cherry. I took a tentative bite. The flesh was astonishingly juicy—syrupy nectar pooled to the surface and ran down my arm. Compared to the juiceless cottonwads back home, this was a dripping, pulsating life form. It seemed to have been drenched in wild honey, butterscotch, and first kisses.

Starting the following summer, when we moved back to Montreal, I’d buy apricots whenever I saw them, always hoping to relive the experience. They never tasted remotely similar. Often, they were inedible—mealy and coin flavored. Still, I sampled them everywhere, from the Niagara fruit belt to the orchards of California. At a certain point, resigning myself to the once-in-a-lifetimeness of that Budapest summer, I gave up on apricots.

 

Unless a fruit has somehow become entwined with their adolescent delectations, most people don’t really care about what they might be missing. They’re content with supermarket strawberries, dry oranges, and the occasional farm-fresh melon. But anyone fortunate enough to have come across a premium cultivar at the height of its ripeness laments the quality of mass-produced fruits.

plum
6/9/2014 4:18:57 AM

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roy l payne
3/19/2012 3:47:28 AM

When I was 16yo, in the late sixties, my parents bought a little 5acre ranchette in the hills above Los Altos, CA. It was a sub-division of a large apricot farm that the farmer had retired and split his land to sell to the new families pouring into the silicon valley. The new Mac-Mansions being built were a far cry from the little farm-hands house my parents and I moved into. What was unique, however, is that the Mac-Mansion owners didn't cut many of the surrounding apricot trees down trying to embrace some sense of rural life, nor did they care about the fruit that abound on the trees, leaving us to pick and process all the apricots we wanted...for free! Those were halcyon days of apricot heaven where every meal included apricot something or other. Chicken or pork with apricot sauce, apricot jellies, apricot pies and baked scones, apricot ice cream, any and everything apricot. I kept bees and had apricot honey that was the absolute paramount. Well, those days are gone. Our little house was razed for another Mac-Mansion and I live in the midst of Palo Alto, another one time farm area. The point is, under the pavement of silicon valley is the most precious soils once home to apricots, prunes, peaches and plums of world class rating. Now, we give you your computer designs and venture capital. But my memories will last until the day I die. Thanks for your story.