Walliser Aprikosen (apricots from the canton of Valais) are a big thing in Switzerland. Sometime in July the first apricots from Valais pop up at the farmers markets and in the stores and many people go and buy large quantities of them, for making jams, desserts and freezing them for the winter. While a large share of the apricots that are being sold in Switzerland are from France and Germany, the canton of Valais in southwestern Switzerland is lucky enough to have the perfect climate for growing high quality apricots. Thanks to the warm, sandy ground of the Rhone valley, the clear glacier water for irrigation and the perfect microclimate, the Valais apricots are beautifully coloured and intense in flavour; not less than 98% of Swiss apricots are grown in Valais.
Their apricots haven’t always been available for sale outside of Valais though. Until the early 1990s, the Valais farmers had only grown the local variety called Luizet. That one, while delicious, is a very delicate one that can’t be transported and has to be eaten within 24 hours after picking. Also, the harvest is restricted to one to two short weeks each year. It was in the 1990s when the farmers started growing different varieties. Nowadays at least 14 varieties are grown and the apricot season in Valais lasts for three entire months, in this order: start of the season mid of June with the varierty Wonder-Cot, followed by Orangered®, Goldrich®, Hargrand, Bergarouge® and the ancient variety Luizet until early August. Then the late ones follow: Bergeron, Tomcot®, Tardif de Tain® until mid-September.
How to grow apricots in the Alps
Despite the ideal climate, growing apricots in Valais isn’t plain sailing. Due to it’s altitude (apricots are grown in Valais up to 1000 meters above sea level) and special climate, the farmers are constantly on the guard for the perfect conditions. Apricots need the cold temperatures in winter but not in spring when a late frost can damage the blossom. If it’s too cold in spring, the farmers need to warm up the air either with fire (with gigantic torches) or with spraying water (the water turns into ice and releases warm air) in order to protect the blossom or the young fruit.
Why the Swiss love Valais apricots so much
So, why are the Valais apricots so popular amongst the Swiss? For one, they are truly delicious and being grown in Switzerland means they reach the supermarket faster than the foreign ones. Plus, the Swiss like to buy home-grown fruit and vegetables, because it supports our farmers and shorter distances are better for the environment. Furthermore, rather than just buying something from somewhere unknown, isn’t it just exciting to wait for the arrival of ‘the’ apricots each summer?
Recipes with apricots
Apricots are delicous eaten fresh – if they’re unripe, put them into the fridge and take them out 12 hours before eating; going from cold to warm speeds up ripening. Other ideas are: apricot sponge cake (recipe following this week), apricot jam, apricot pie and apricot creme (recipe following).