Apricots, Prunus armenaica, originated in China but were introduced to Europe through Armenia. The introduction of apricots to California began in the late 1700s in some of the Spanish Missions. As apricot trees thrived in the California climate they became an important crop and by 1920 the first major production had begun in the Santa Clara Valley. Later the orchards moved into the San Joaquin Valley where most of the production now occurs.
Apricot trees are one of several fruit trees that can reliably produce in the southwest and the Las Vegas Valley climate. Varieties of apricot trees that have low chill requirements and do well here are listed in the Sunset Western Garden book. (Zone 11 for Las Vegas)
Recommended varieties are: Floragold, Harcot, Harglow, Montrose, Moorpark, Newcastle, Tilton, Early gold and Royal ‘Blenheim’.
Other varieties that are tried and tested in Las Vegas are growing at Gilcrease Orchard and at the UNCE Master Gardener orchard. Master Gardeners or the UNCE office can also provide information on what has been tested or is growing around the valley.
‘Royal Rosa’ is an early season variety of Apricot grown at Gilcrease Orchard and the Sweet Tomato Test Gardens. It is an early producing fruit for Vegas gardens and is harvested before the end of May.
Many apricot varieties that do well in the southwest will be harvested through the month of June in nearby farms and backyard gardens.
Harvesting of an apricot tree typically is only over a period of one to two weeks so plans need to be made for preserving the apricots in advance of the expected harvest dates.For best flavor apricots should be allowed to ripen on the tree. Check them daily during the harvest period.
A mature bearing fruit tree motivates neighbors or friends to frantically look for ways to use the fruit or to share the abundance. Some folks may have a tree but not be interested in the fruit and would love to find someone who will take away the falling fruit for them.
Birds will also be checking on the fruit and peck into the softest sections testing for ripeness. Some birds are attracted to and enjoy sweet juicy goodness of apricot and other tree fruits especially in the southwest dry climate.
If birds are a problem in your yard a bird net can be thrown over the top of the tree when damage begins and removed when the fruit is harvested. Any small damage can be cut out and the rest of the fruit is still good to use.
Ants can also become a problem on ripening fruit so consider putting some kind of barrier on or around the trunk to stop the ants from traveling up the tree.
Fresh apricot sales will continue into July at farmer’s markets and in produce sections of grocery stores. The prices will be at their lowest and the flavor of the apricots will be at their best. Enjoy eating them fresh now while they are in season and coming from local farmers.