Apricot Bonanza

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

What a problem! We underestimated the apricot crop–by a lot! We continued to go out into the garden each evening to pick up fallen fruit, but Beth could see that there were many apricots high in the tree. My son Jack was over Friday night, and I asked if he wanted to help pick on Saturday morning. He declined, and now I can see why.

After mowing the lawn on Saturday morning, Beth said the magic words–“let’s pick apricots.” I brought out both a 4 foot and 6 foot ladder, and we were off and running. Potatoes, tomatoes, a lilac bush and the garden fence made placing the ladders a real challenge. We spent a considerable amount of time in ladder placement and trying not to step on the garden crops. I finally told Beth the potatoes were expendable, and to put the ladder on them and damage them if she must. It would only be a small portion of the crop, and since they are an early variety, the vines are already starting to die.

I have no fear of heights, so for the most part I spent my time up in the tall ladder, while Beth tried to point out where the fruit was hanging. This did not work real well. As my hands approached the fruit, much of it fell. The good news is that Beth could see where it fell, and could pick it up. The thick foliage also hid much of the fruit. I would feel along the branches with my hand and pick whatever I found. Beth was wondering what I was doing, and when I showed her a handful of fruit she kept saying “I didn’t see those.”  The tree is 15-20 feet tall, so in the end I crawled up as high as I dared and shook the tree several times violently. Fruit reigned down on Beth, but despite this fact she could still see fruit high in the tree. By that time I just said “the birds have to eat, too.”

Almost two hours later the ladders were back in the garage, and there were six containers of fruit on the kitchen counter. These ranged in size from a large dishpan to a 2 gallon bucket. What a crop!  Although we didn’t count them, there were easily 1000 fruits in the house.

Later that afternoon I began the sorting process. There were four main categories–1. The fruit that was so damaged that I threw it away; 2. The fruit that was slightly damaged that I put in the refrigerator in a large bag for me to eat later; 3. The fruit that was worthy to give away; and 4. The fruit that was hard and green. I washed up the category 3 and 4 fruit, and placed it on 3 large folded towels on the counter.

A day later Beth noticed that some of the fruit that was “perfect” on Saturday wasn’t in such good shape on Sunday. It was time to bag up and box up the good fruit, and put it in the refrigerator. The category 4 fruit was still out, but in a foil lined pan which remained on the counter.

By Wednesday, the category 4 fruit had turned from hard and green to kind of ripe and kind of rotten. I was pleased that I had lined the pan with foil. It was only fit for the garbage can–a tragedy, but unfortunately not unexpected.

I probably would have enjoyed my apricot tasks if it wouldn’t have been for a summer cold. All I wanted to do on Saturday and Sunday was lay around. The apricots could have all rotted in the garden for all I cared. But the tasks got done, and I’m none the worst for it.

I hope to have an apricot crop again some day, and if feeling better (which I plan on) I’ll do things a bit differently. Way too much fruit got thrown away. I loved giving the good fruit away, but next time I’ll be armed with an easy jam or preserve recipe. Much of the damaged fruit could have been cut up, and part of it salvaged. Fresh home grown fruit simply does not keep. The best home grown peaches I’ve ever eaten had pretty much turned to mush an hour after they were picked. “Mush” is the wrong word–juice would be better. They practically melted in your mouth, but you had to eat them immediately. Apricots aren’t much different.

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