Sneaky Stone Fruit

Apricot season is short; catch it while you can

Most of us so eagerly await the summer's star stone fruit–peaches–that we forget about their tinier, tarter, short-seasoned companions: apricots.

While peaches flourish through September, apricots make a fleeting appearance for only a few weeks in July and early August. They have a just reputation as a tricky little fruit, ripening from the inside out and rendering the usual "softness test" useless. But just-picked, peak-of-the-season apricots offer something that not all peaches can: delicious sweet-tart flavor, even when they're not fully ripe.

There are four main varieties on market tables right now–Hargrand, Harcot, Harlane and Goldcot–though their growers say there are more similarities than differences. As a rough guide, Goldcots are dense and sweet (good for salads and raw desserts), while Harcots are larger and better for cooking. Look for bright yellow-orange fruit (the red blush on some varieties is just nature's decoration).

At The Gage, chef Dirk Flanigan slices raw apricots into an easily replicated salad of cucumbers, robiola cheese, olive oil and Blis 9 vinegar (substitute sherry vinegar and a touch of honey at home). Pastry chef Karen Krol makes a stewed chutney composed of apricots, vanilla, sherry vinegar and pink peppercorns. She serves this piquant condiment with cheese, but grilled pork, chicken and duck will no doubt appreciate the addition, too.