I’ve always had a romance with apricots since I was about six years old. If a young child ever knew the feeling of love and obsession, it was me and a hidden apricot tree in Reno, Nevada back in the 70’s. Those memories of racing heart beats, sweaty palms and nervous butterflies-in-the-stomach feelings are still so clear to me after all these years.
Almost every weekend, my parents would head to their friends house for weekly dinner parties. I don’t remember much of the hosts nor their nourishing dinner gatherings. Mom and Dad would always reminisce about how much they loved these friends and their loving hospitality. But what I did remember, clearly, was a lonely apricot tree that grew at the back of their mobile home.
This mobile home park was rather bare bones. It was in the middle of the dry, desert shrub community of Reno, specifically Carson City, Nevada. If any of you have ever been to Carson City back in the 70’s, you’ll remember that aside from the bustling casino’s of downtown Reno, Carson city inherited all the dry hills, tumble weed, dirt roads and mobile homes of the area. My family lived in one of those mobile homes and pretty much everyone we knew back then inhabited one of these “cardboard houses”.
What I loved most about these friends mobile home was the apricot tree that was dripping with fruit in late spring. My first encounter of the tree was when I chased a ball that my friend kicked behind the mobile home. The branches dotted with small orange fruit was so striking against the hot, dry evenings. The velvety skin was something I had never experienced before.
I remember being so taken by a tree with edible fruit that I completely forgot about the ball that I was to retrieve. My arms reached for the lower branches and the ripe apricots literally fell off the branches to the most delicate touch. The warm, soft, sweet fruit was such a surprise and I kept stuffing my mouth till I couldn’t eat anymore.
I brought in a handful of the fruit to my parents and asked what they were called. Even for them, it was the first time they’d ever seen such fruit. The hosts didn’t know what they were called in Vietnamese, but in English, they were called apricots.
Ah, apricots. That’s what they’re called. My obsession and romance with them began.
My visits to this mobile home was never the same for the following weeks. This tree was seriously my first childhood crush. I couldn’t wait to get to the house and visit the tree, hug it’s branches and reap the sweet gifts it saved for me.
Even till this day, I can spot an apricot tree from a long distance away. The grown form, branching shape, leaves in both leafing and dormant stages can’t pass my eyes. If it’s in fruit, you can bet I can spot it a mile away. And every time I spy a fruiting apricot tree, I always remember my first love of that lonely apricot tree and dream that one day, I’ll be able to grow one for myself.
Until then, I’ll continue to eat them as fresh as possible when the season arrives. But when I get an abundance of apricots, I enjoy poaching them with a touch of basil. The floral notes combined with the sweet apricots is heaven, especially on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This poached apricot recipe is dedicated to that one apricot tree that changed the life of a 6 year old.
Basil Poached Apricots a la Mode
Yield: 6 Servings
Total Time: 30 Minutes plus cooling time
Apricots will be best poached when nearly fully ripe. We use basil blossoms from the garden, but if you can't get any, feel free to use Italian basil leaves instead.
- 1 lb Apricots, halved & seeded
- 1 1/2 c Water
- 1 1/2 c Sugar
- 1/4 c Honey
- Handful Basil Blossom tops
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Combine water, sugar, honey, and basil blossoms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to help sugar dissolve evenly.
- Add apricots, reduce heat to medium to medium-high, and poach for 2-4 minutes or until soft but still intact.
- Using a slotted spoon, gently remove apricots. Strain and place on a plate to cool. (Apricots are nice served slightly warm, at room temp., or chilled. We vary it depending on the weather. The warmer the day, the cooler we like them. If serving chilled, place plate in refrigerator until ready to serve.)
- While apricots cool, increase heat to high, and reduce down poaching liquid, caramelizing the liquid. Skim any scum that develops and occasionally brush sides of pan with a brush dipped in cold water. Reduce to about 1 cup, or until caramel is a nice golden color *See Note 1. (you may have to remove from heat occasionally to allow bubbles to relax so you are able to check caramel's color). Set aside to cool, or quicker service is needed, cool in an ice bath.
- If desired, cut apricots into quarters, or else just serve as halves. Serve with ice cream and caramel sauce drizzled over the top. Garish with basil blossoms.
If you cook the caramel down too much and it is too thick after cooling, add some hot water back into the caramel to create the thickness you prefer.