In 2002 we made our first batch of apricot jam from an old Blenheim tree in our backyard and had no idea that the unbelievably intense and tantalizing flavor we preserved was on the verge of extinction.
For the past five years we have made extremely small batches of our very special jam from our one tree, and now to accomodate more people a neighboring orchard – a holdover from not long ago when the Santa Clara Valley was the American capital of apricot production and the Blenheim reigned supreme gracing the acreage of hundreds of orchards. We decided to make our jam because we saw a tree every year produce fruit that dropped to the ground and went uneaten. Then we tried it. Once you have tasted a Blenheim you will never forget it.
We knew our backyard was once an orchard and our tree was the last survivor. We knew our neighborhood had been bulldozed in the name of progress because we are in the heart of Silicon Valley. The very computer you read these words on was made possible by the death of these orchards.
What we didn’t know is how dire the situation is. That the Blenheim is considered “endangered” by Slow Food USA and with the rapid closure of orchards and with no other Blenheims grown outside this area, it is on the verge of extinction. And we didn’t know that the characteristics that had made it so popular are now its downfall.
The Blenheim is a delicate fruit that bruises easily and therefore early on was used specifically for the production of dried apricots. It still is. Those who eat the fresh fruit either grew up close to a farm or are lucky to buy it for the short two-week period of time it can be sold in farmer’s markets. It is this delicate, fleeting and tasteful quality of the Blenheim that has won over so many people who are lucky enough to eat it picked fresh from the tree. However, the price of land here is one of the highest in the country and most farmers sell out. Then there are the cheap dried apricots imported from abroad. Seems there is no reason from a business perspective for the Blenheim. But that is a mistake.
We believe strongly in people who dedicate their lives to nurturing growing things. We believe our local Blenheim growers, who are passionate believers in flavor, deserve to stay in business and do what they love. We believe that by producing jam from this amazing fruit we can provide an opportunity for these farmers to grow and sell fresh fruit that is best suited for preservation as jam. There is no way to stop the cheap imports of dried apricots. And the Blenheim will never be strong enough to survive the rough and tumble life of fruit that is sold in the marketplace. But where this fruit really shines is when it is lightly heated and preserved in a clean glass jar.
Others make apricot jam. Some use Blenheims. But none tastes like ours. Try it for yourself and you will see. We both hated apricot jam until we made our own. If that isn’t reason enough, we don’t know what is.