Have you noticed? The apricot trees are a-bloom. For local apricot lover and author, Lisa Newman, who grew up among the once bountiful blossoms of the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, apricots are the center of the fruit universe. Sadly, while grapevine acreage is going up, orchard acreage is plummeting.
As of 2017, Santa Clara and San Benito counties had just 696 acres of apricot orchards remaining, down from their peak of 8,800 in the 1940s. California once boasted 18,600 apricot orchard acres, but agriculture and housing priorities shifted dramatically, with apricots getting the short end of the stick.
Newman said production in the Santa Clara Valley has been quite good for the last two years, keeping supplies and prices steady. Hopefully, this year’s crop will be decent; it all depends on sufficient “cold hours.” Apricots require about 750 hours between 32 to 45 degrees over the winter months in order to rest sufficiently.
Newman reported that Andy Mariani, owner of Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill, had measured 680 cold hours by mid-February, but recent warm temps spike concern. Apricot trees typically bloom for two weeks, and while it looks bone dry for at least the next 15 days, Newman said they could be subject to the vagaries of wind. Only time will tell.
Mark calendars for April 4 and 5, when Newman will be at B&R Farms in Hollister, signing her new book, “For the Love of Apricots 2020.”