California’s beloved fruit, the Blenheim apricot, will arrive in local markets by mid-July. The Blenheim has the power to enchant adults and children alike with its gorgeous color, sweet perfume and well-balanced sweet and tart flavors.

Jams, nectar, syrup, pies and pastry reach perfection with this variety of apricot, which is uniquely adapted to the Bay Area’s moderate coastal climate.

The Blenheim apricot and its heirloom cousins, the Moorpark and Alameda-Hemskirke, shared international fame with the French prune for nearly 100 years, when the Santa Clara Valley was known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.” Back then, orchards spread across the region in every direction. In springtime, visitors from around the Bay Area, across California and even distant parts of the world, came to see the blossom spectacle celebrated at the Saratoga Blossom Festival, which ran from 1900 to 1942.

These varieties made up the entire apricot marketplace, which meant that their short season, approximately three to four weeks beginning around the Fourth of July, sent the entire region into a frenzy of picking, drying, preserving, jam making and baking. Traditions passed down through generations can be seen with the jars of homemade apricot jam that still fill the shelves at local county fairs.

In the post-war decades, as urban sprawl swept over the Santa Clara Valley, new apricot varieties such as the Patterson and Tilton developed to grow in the Central Valley’s more extreme heat. Over time, eastern Washington State expanded its apricot production and contributed other fine varieties. Many of these apricots ripen earlier and later than the Blenheim.

Today, you can find apricots in the market from May to August. But a taste test will show that the peak of flavor comes right at midsummer with Santa Clara Valley’s Blenheim. Fortunately, much of the crop is dried so their bright, tangy flavor can be enjoyed throughout the year in a wide variety of dishes, both sweet and savory.

It is no surprise to Bay Area residents that new farmland is not being created. On the contrary, the number of orchard acres in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, particularly planted in apricots, is diminishing each year. The farm families who continue to produce this extraordinary fruit within our region are becoming as rare as the Blenheim variety itself.

Blenheim apricots can be found at the farm shops listed below, local farmers markets and select grocery stores. Ask for them beginning in July to be sure you get the quantity you need. Plan to attend special events when the fruit is at its peak to support the local orchardists who continue to produce this world-class fruit.

Lisa Prince Newman is the author of “For the Love of Apricots: Recipes and Memories of the Santa Clara Valley.” She will be signing books at Andy’s Orchards Farm Tour and Tasting, Jul. 7 and Jul. 20 from 10am to 3pm, 1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill; and at Books Inc., Aug. 1, at 6:30pm, 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell. Her book is available at available at

Novakovich Orchards
14251 Fruitvale Ave, Saratoga

Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard
570 E Remington Dr, Sunnyvale

Andy’s Orchard Country Store
1615 Half Rd, Morgan Hill

Apricot Blackberry Kuchen

Cornmeal gives this Austrian coffee cake a slightly sandy texture. Fresh apricots and blackberries share the limelight in a delicious morning or mid-afternoon snacking cake.


1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) butter, to grease the baking dish
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
5 fresh, ripe apricots, halved and pitted
10 large blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg, brown sugar, buttermilk, and melted butter until blended. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until evenly moistened.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Press the apricot halves, cut side up, decoratively into the batter. Place a blackberry in the center of each apricot half.
Bake until the cake feels firm when pressed gently and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes.
Before serving, loosen the edge of the cake from the cake pan with a small, sharp knife and invert the cake onto a plate. Place the serving platter over the cake bottom and gently invert the cake onto the platter. Sprinkle with sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.