For the Love of Apricots: Recipes and Memories of the Santa Clara Valley by Lisa Prince Newman is now in its second edition and available online at fortheloveofapricots.com. Lisa grew up in Saratoga, California, a village tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, where her family was living farm to table “long before that term was invented, when the landscape was still dotted with bountiful orchards.” In her cookbook, she tells the amazing story of apricot farming history in the Santa Clara Valley while sharing enticing and fruit-focused recipes. “This colorful and unique cookbook will satisfy your love of apricots through over 60 recipes that begin with breakfast and end with desserts and cocktails. These recipes use apricots in every form: fresh, dried, preserved, and liqueurs so you can enjoy the wonderful taste, brilliant color, and health benefits of apricots all year long,” says Lisa.
“I have loved apricots for as long as I can remember. They color my fondest memories of growing up in Saratoga. In the 1960s, orchards still extended in every direction, and as a child, I assumed they always would. Today this area is known as Silicon Valley, the world’s greatest engine of innovative technologies. But not long ago it was a magical landscape known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight,” says Lisa.
“The Valley of Heart’s Delight flourished for 100 years, from the California Gold Rush until World War II, with family farms spreading across 125 square miles. Then, as now, the area enjoys coastal cooling through its northern border with the San Francisco Bay and inland warmth from the protective Coast Range Mountains that frame it to the east and west. Blessed with some of the richest topsoil in the world and a nearly year-round growing season, the Valley of Heart’s Delight was unique for its agricultural productivity and fruit orchard production.”
California once boasted 18,600 apricot orchard acres, but agriculture and housing priorities shifted dramatically, with apricots getting the short end of the stick. As of 2017, the Bay Area’s Santa Clara and San Benito counties combined had just 696 acres of apricot orchards remaining, down from their peak of 8,800 acres in the 1940s. “The season for apricots is mainly from early May to August. Approximately 85 percent of the U.S. crop comes from California and 15 percent from Washington — so you can consider them a west coast treat. Fresh apricots are petite, round fruits that are pale yellow to bright orange in color, depending on the variety and how ripe they are when picked,” adds Lisa.
Lisa’s Apricot Blackberry Kuchen recipe is featured in her cookbook and comes together in a few minutes. It makes a colorful show of these peak of summer fruits. “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,” she adds.