Apache, a delicious apricot developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists in California, boasts a sweet, delicate flavor and pleasing aroma. The apricot is the result of more than a decade of research by geneticist Craig A. Ledbetter and technician Louis Vuittonet of the ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, Calif., about 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The Apache apricot is the latest in a series of delectable spring and summertime apricots bred and tested by ARS' California-based tree fruit researchers.

Apache is about average in size and has an attractive pinkish-orange skin. Inside, the orange flesh is smooth and finely textured. This apricot is a “freestone” fruit, meaning that — unlike clingstone types — Apache's juicy flesh separates easily from the pit, or stone, in its center.

Apache ripens earlier than any other ARS-developed apricot. Ready to harvest in the first week of May, Apache is bound to be a hit, especially with people who've waited all winter for the taste of tree-ripened apricots, Ledbetter noted.

To form fruit, Apache needs pollen from other kinds of apricot trees. But that isn't a problem for growers, because popular apricot varieties like Katy and Castlebrite are excellent sources of pollen for bees to carry to Apache flowers. The researchers are now determining precisely how many of these pollinator trees are needed and how close to Apache they must be planted.

Budwood available

The team made budwood — for grafting — available to breeders and nurseries for the first time last year. Budwood is still available seasonally from Ledbetter.

Apache ships and stores well and is likely suitable for growing in any state where commercial apricot orchards are already established. Apache is profiled in an article in the June issue of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly science magazine, Agricultural Research. The story about Apache is available on the Web at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jun03/fruit0603.htm.