The Patterson apricot tree has been called the most important American cultivar, and this is no exaggeration. While other apricot varieties have their own strengths and unique traits, the Patterson has made a name for itself.
For decades, the Patterson apricot has been a vital multipurpose fruit that bolstered the western United States’s agricultural industry. While it is not as flavorful as some newer varieties that are gaining in popularity, it still retains numerous practical advantages that keep it popular.
It is the ideal apricot for canning because it withstands the heating process better than alternative varieties. It is valuable also as a fresh market fruit in Washington and its home state, California.
History of the Patterson Apricot Tree
The Patterson apricot tree hails from the self-proclaimed apricot capital of the world: Patterson, California. This small town produces more than 95,000 tons of apricots annually. Located near the Pacific Coast “Diablo” Range, Patterson apricots were developed in an environment unlike any other.
Fred Anderson is credited with producing both the yellow-fleshed nectarine and the Patterson apricot. Working in Le Grand, California, Anderson made his new apricot cultivar available to nurseries in the late 1960s. Anderson, along with his colleague Irvin Burchell, wanted to produce an apricot suitable for canning. They were also especially interested in preventing pit burning, which consistently plagued other apricot varieties. Anderson developed a few other cultivars, but the Patterson was by far his most popular.
Within just a few decades, the Patterson apricot became the most significant variety grown in California. This is true not just economically but culturally as well.
Tree / Fruit Characteristics
Patterson apricot trees are strong growers and producers. Fruit can grow to be quite large and the flesh becomes firm when ripe. Since they are self-pollinators, Patterson apricots also make productive backyard and hobby fruit trees. They are ideal for those without space for multiple trees who still want to grow their own apricots. Trees are often so productive that firstfruits are kept for fresh uses and later harvests are kept for canning.
The fruit is orange with velvet-textured skin. The apricot is an important food internationally in a variety of cultures and cuisines. It is easiest to grow in western states with lots of sun or in the Mediterranean. Pre-fruit flowers are brightly colored and develop in early spring.
This apricot is known as a high yielding tree that produces fruits with a delicate, mellow flavor. The fruit are valuable for their easy preservation by canning and other methods, but also their use in various dishes and desserts.
Patterson apricots perform well in growing zones 4-9. Like other varieties, they perform best when they have a cold period to set its fruit. This period is ideally a bit over four months. As long as your area has temperatures below about 7 C (45 F) consistently (for at least 700 up to 1,000 hours), your Patterson apricot tree should grow and produce quite well.
Apricot trees bloom early in the season, so be sure to watch out for frost damage in colder regions. Regions prone to sudden, unexpected cold snaps will support other varieties better.
Size and Spacing
The Patterson apricot tree can grow very tall, as high as 15 to 30 feet. The canopy spreads between 10 and 15 feet wide. Because of this, you will need to plant them at least 10 feet apart, if not more.
This is because the roots and canopies need room to spread and gather more nutrients. To ensure that your apricot tree gets enough sun, water, and soil nutrients, plant them with a good amount of space between them and any other plants or structures.
The Patterson apricot tree is self-fertilizing. Flowers from the same tree pollinate each other, enabling a single tree to produce a harvest of fruit. Additional trees planted nearby can help increase yield and tree size. There is no need for more than one apricot tree of this cultivar unless you hope for bigger harvests. Individuals and families are quite often supplied with more than enough fruit from just one tree.
Patterson Apricot Tree Care
Plant your apricot trees in loamy, well-draining soil. Shallow plantings can seriously inhibit growth and harvest size. Trees enjoy being watered deeply, as apricots like to have lots of water during the growing season. Do not plant in soil high in salt, chloride, boron, or other elements, as apricot trees dislike these in excess. Be sure to check your soil before planting and balance the pH if necessary. Waiting until trees are planted to correct these issues can spell disaster.
Patterson apricot trees prefer to have a lot of sunlight. Plant them where they will have full sun (at least eight hours per day). Anything less than this can seriously limit how well your trees produce.
Patterson apricots, like other varieties, prefer being planted deep in well-draining soil. Too shallow a root ball or too wet a soil can inhibit tree growth and harvest. Aim for about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water each week. Try not to get fruits, leaves, or flowers too wet to prevent rot.
Prune your apricot tree every year to keep it from overproducing, which lowers the quality and size of the fruit. You should aim for a moderate harvest of high quality fruit. Prune branches to create enough airflow to protect fruit from rot and the tree from pests or disease. You should also thin fruit to help improve crop size. This should be done every 5 cm (about 2 inches) or so.
Common Uses For The Fruit
What Do Patterson Apricots Taste Like?
Patterson apricots have a mild flavor that is variously described as refreshing, slightly sweet, and slightly sour. The fruit often has notes of melon or citrus, giving it a subtle yet unique flavor all its own.
Patterson apricots are wonderful ingredients in cobblers, trail mixes, granola, jams, preserves, and salsas. Many people enjoy adding them to salads and yogurt. They are commonly used to enhance the flavor of meats like beef and chicken. Perhaps most commonly, apricots are used in various pastries and other desserts because of their sweet, mildly tart flavor.
Patterson apricots are more often viewed as a refreshing, familiar fruit rather than something extraordinary or revolutionary. This is by design, since the Patterson was bred to be suitable for long term preservation, especially canning. That said, plenty of people enjoy the flavor of a fresh Patterson apricot, and it is quite popular as a snack.
Canning / Freezing / Drying
Patterson apricots are the ideal choice if you plan to can, freeze, or dry your fruit. This cultivar was developed with these specific purposes in mind. This means that the Patterson apricot tree holds up well to the temperature changes and storage conditions that long term preservation requires.
Health Benefits of Apricots
Apricots have a number of important nutritional and potential health benefits. They are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Regular consumption may help improve health of the gut, eyes, and skin. This includes potentially improved digestion. Apricots may contribute to maintaining a healthy heart, too.
Patterson apricots are low in calories and reliable sources of vitamins C, E, A, and potassium. The skin contains much of the fiber and nutrients, though the stone inside is inedible.
Where To Buy Patterson Apricots
Fresh Patterson apricots at peak ripeness are easy to find throughout California, Washington, and other locations in the western United States. Since Patterson is the most abundant variety grown in California, it is ubiquitous across much of the state. Since most trees grown from apricot stone do not produce fruit, the vast majority of Patterson apricot trees are cultivated through grafting. You will likely need to find a breeder or someone willing to share to grow your own rather than planting from a stone.
Wrapping Up The Patterson Apricot Tree
The Patterson apricot tree is a strong-growing, self-pollinating cultivar that is prized for its vigorous growth and fruit production. Patterson apricots are valued by Californian fruit industry, gardeners, and apricot fans everywhere for their durability. Their mild, refreshing flavor stores well in the long term and the firm flesh of the fruit retains its texture. If you enjoy canning or drying fruit, the Patterson is a perfect choice.
Growing Patterson apricots is quite simple once you familiarize yourself with the basics of their care and cultivation. This makes them a fantastic fit for any newcomers to apricots or fruit growing generally.