A great apricot is a real treat - aromatic and delicate, with a vibrant flavor and smooth flesh. A bad apricot can be overly acidic, hard as a rock (or almost worse, mealy), and even full of tannins. See how to find the good ones and make the very best use of them.
The apricot season is fleeting, even where they grow well. They are the first of the summer orchard fruits to ripen - as their Latin name praecoquum, "precious" or "early ripe" denotes. Look for fresh apricots starting in May in California and into July in cooler areas, if you're lucky enough to live in an area that both gets enough chill to set the trees into dormancy in winter but warm enough to coddle the early fruits.
How to Select an Apricot
Look for plump-looking apricots that feel heavy for their size. They may be yellow or orange or even have a blush of red, but avoid apricots that have any green on them. The flesh of an apricot should give a little if you hold it in the palm of your hand and press in gently all over (never poke or squeeze an apricot!). Most importantly, a good, ripe apricot will smell like an apricot.
How to Store an Apricot
Apricots do not like the cold. Keep apricots at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Apricots will ripe a bit if stored at room temperature in a brown paper bag. Use ripe apricots quickly - they go from ripe to mush quite quickly.
How to Use Apricots
Fresh apricots are delicious eaten out of hand, right off the pit. You can also halve and grill apricots (brush them lightly with oil and grill cut-side down), slice them and serve on ice cream, or make a yummy Stone Fruit Tart.