By Romney Steele
Near come and gone by now, I have to give a shout-out to my favorite apricot, the Blenheim (sometimes referred to as Royal Blenheim, or simply Royal), before it’s too late. This petite but sublime variety with its speckled, blush appearance has a short season, usually peaking by end of June but, due to delayed harvest, they can still be found now.
Prized for their flavor and intense honeysuckle aroma, they have been grown in Brentwood and Gilroy since the early 1900s, but have been mostly replaced by larger, shinier varieties that ship well. But don’t be fooled by color and size alone — the signature Blenheim with its juicy, golden flesh is the best eating apricot around and excellent for jams and desserts.
Avalos Organic Farm at the Tuesday and Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market had their first pick of these beauties last week, and will continue to have them for a few more. Buy an extra few pounds or so to put up in Marsala wine syrup for enjoying later in the year.
Another market favorite is Lucero Farms strawberries. These delicate, sweet gems are sold on stem, and are not only gorgeous to look at, but offer an old-fashioned, vibrant strawberry taste. The downside is that they don’t last long once you get them home, so plan to use them within a day. Scatter a few on a salad, toss with a little wine and serve with sorbet for a refreshing dessert, make jam or simply enjoy them as they are.
Berkeley Farmers Markets take place on Tuesdays, 2-6pm, at Derby Street @ MLK Jr. Way; Thursdays, 2-6pm, at Shattuck @ Rose Street; and on Saturdays, 10am-3pm, at Center Street @ MLK Jr. Way.
Romney Steele is a freelance writer, cook and artist, and the author of My Nepenthe. Read her previous Market Reports here.