Notes From Hairenik

The time of apricots in full ripeness has finally come. And the prices have fallen drastically from 1500 dram ($5) a kilo for greenish-yellow ones only two weeks ago to about 150 dram now, or about 50 cents, for apricots that are just about turning into jam as they tend not to persevere against high temperatures and the sun's blazing rays, especially during the course of the last few days.

Apricots (or dziran in Armenian) are for the most part one of a few national symbols of Armenia, alongside the pomegranate and the somber-toned duduk woodwind instrument. After all, the Latin name of the fruit is Prunus armeniaca, although it is thought to have originated in China and Japan. This country is so crazy about apricots that some unidentified moron even renamed the third color of the national flag from orange to "apricot color"--the hue of the flag stripe has actually lightened as a result. Although Armenia is by far a minuscule provider of these luscious, golden orbs (which tend to explode with dew as soon as you plunge your teeth into them) losing out to its neighbors Turkey and Iran--the first and second largest apricot producers respectfully--it still manages to export tonnes of the stuff to Russia, where it is sold at rather high prices on the marketplace. However, I would daresay that very few nations consume as many apricots as Armenians do since they are to be had literally everywhere as trees tend to withstand several of the country's 11 climate zones. Most are grown throughout the Ararat region and around Ashtarak in Aragatsotn, although they can also be found in Vayots Dzor to the south as well. The season unfortunately is short; by the middle of July supplies will drastically dwindle. Well into the spring, some storms dropping pelting hail the size of cherry pits (which is what I witnessed last week in Yerevan while staring mesmerized out the window at work) caused some damage, and there was some speculation that this summer's yield would also be bad--2007 was terrible due to severe rains and unpredictable weather patterns which all but ruined whatever young fruit hung from the trees; apricots were fetching a steep 1,000 dram per kilo then. But I have discovered last weekend that hail bruises do nothing to spoil the taste having eaten several kilos practically non-stop. Since apricots tend to have a laxative effect it caught up with me suddenly all at once Monday evening after mysteriously accumulating inside for some time. I took it easy on Tuesday taking a deserved rest, nevertheless I must have eaten just shy of a kilo yesterday throughout the day, as I find it difficult if not impossible to eat only a few at a time. Usually I eat at minimum 10 apricots only stopping when my stomach is bulging and there is basically no room left to keep consuming them.

Several years ago I came to Armenia for a 12-day visit during the summer, which was when I first sampled organic apricots, compared with the beautiful, plump yet absoutely tasteless ones they produce in California. I was taught by someone to split the apricot at the notch where the seam ends, near the stem. Essentially you are left with two perfect halves of the fruit which you can pop into your mouth one at a time, of course removing the pit beforehand. Once every so often you may see a tiny worm squirming around adjacent to his poop, which incidentally is perfectly edible. And if you manage to crack open the apricot stone the seed inside is excellent, better tasting than an almond I would say.

For Armenians apricots are the highlight of the summer and they never fail to please. There is nothing more appealing and even inspiring than to see a gleaming bowl of apricots as the centerpiece of a table, especially in my own home several times throughout the day. The challenge is keeping the bowl full.

Photos Copyright © Christian Garbis 2008

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Blogger nazarian said...
I just came up with an idea. A salad made with apricots and tomatoes sprinkled with lemon juice and oil with some herbs and coarsely crushed black pepper in it. Based on the prices, it would probably cost less than 1,000 dram for a dinner salad like that with the ingredients bought from those street vendors.

Anonymous julie Dermansky said...
Great post. If I where there now I would certainly eat too many apricots at a time. I will have to settle for dried ones if I'm able to return this fall. Still working on that.

Blogger menc said...