Apricots are on sale in Valais and this weekend is their peak, say pickers and sellers. I’ve been buying them at different places, mainly for eating but I’m trying to convince the household’s jam-maker that our supply is running low. He’s more interested in making raspberry jam but the two together on a table with slices of hot toast on a fine summer morning comes close to a visit to a cathedral!
The main traditional variety is called Luizet. They are smaller and less tart than some of the smoother skinned new varieties such as Goldrich. They also don’t keep as well, which is why you see fewer of the Luizet in supermarkets. I find the Luizet more flavourful but my visiting English mother-in-law prefers the newer ones for snacks. Valais grows 10 varieties, with the advantage to growers that the season is a bit longer.
The traditional ones are best for jam-making. We’ve been paying a little over CHF5 for a kilo and CHF20 or a bit more for boxes of 6 kilos.
Where to buy them
This is a wonderful time to visit some of the apricot-orchard towns around Sion and Sierre, along the Rhone river, where the trees are still laden with fruit and the mountains with snowy peaks rise above you.
My favourite is Grone, at the heart of this area, on a road going up to Nendaz, which is a spectacular and cool spot in summer, another 20 minute drive up the mountainside. But there is no shortage of signs for apricots for sale! And they are all good. Do buy direct from the grower, with the trees a few metres away, if you can.
One tip, if you’re making jam: crack the pit and use the soft centre, which looks and tastes a bit like almond, for additional flavour.