Apricots picked ripe from the tree taste like honey - your best chance at getting the best apricots is from a local farmers market. They don't ship or store well when picked ripe.
When are apricots in season?
They have a shorter season than other stone fruits (fruits with a pit in the middle). Most apricots come from California which has a growing season from May - July in northern California, and June - August in southern California.
You can get local apricots at a farmers market in other parts of the country, even the cooler climates (when farmers grow cold-hardy varieties). The season for those apricots is usually about a month long, in the middle of summer.
While apricots continue to ripen after being picked, they don't get much sweeter (if at all). A lot of fruit that ripens after being picked converts their starch into sugars, but apricots have low starch reserves, so there isn't much to convert to make them sweeter. The best apricots have fully ripened on the trees, so you won't find these in super markets. You will find them in farmers markets where they are locally grown.
How to pick:
They should smell like an apricot or slightly like a rose. Ripe ones will be a little bit soft, but not too soft.
Looking for the last great apricot - a fun read about how many farmers grow varieties that look pretty and ship well, sacrificing flavor. But there are some growers who still focus on the flavor, and if you ever are in an area with them, it's worth seeking one out.
How to store:
Leave them on the counter for a couple of days if you're using them right away, or if you need them to soften. Otherwise, put them in the fridge and they should last 4-5 days.
Should I buy organic?
If you can afford it, to be safe, probably. I couldn't find testing data on pesticide levels from the EPA, specific to apricots. However, testing data for peaches shows high levels of pesticides and medium for nectarines.
A rating of 'high' means you would need 1-5 servings in a day to exceed the safety limits set by the US government. A medium rating would take 5-10 servings in a day. The Consumer Reports website has more information on these ratings and it is quite helpful.
Now what should I make?
That's a good question! I scour the internet to find recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, often with a fun twist. Follow Ask The Food Geek on Pinterest or Facebook to get access to the recipes I find every day.
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Each recipe below only uses ingredients that are in season at the same time as apricots, or ingredients that have a year-round season. Since their season overlaps with the beginning or end of other fruits and vegetables, the recipes are grouped into early season, late season, or anytime they are available.
...For Anytime apricots are in season
Grilled apricot and chicken skewers - recipe on My Diary of Us
Apricot and prosciutto pizza - recipe by Flour Arrangements
Shrimp tacos with apricot and strawberry salsa - recipe by Figs and Flour
Apricot, walnut, and lavender cake - recipe from Apt 2B Baking Co.
She made Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from Plenty More (a great cookbook, by the way). Lavender blooms in late spring through summer, so they should overlap with the whole apricot season.
Blackberry apricot salad - recipe by Dinner at the Zoo
Corn comes into season a little later than when apricots first show up. So make this when you see corn at the farmers markets, in June or July.
Apricot habanero jam - recipe by Prairie Californian
Hot peppers come into season later in summer, usually around July (or earlier in very hot areas). Make this right at the end of apricot season and use up all of those ripe apricots then enjoy later in the year.