too many words by laura lemay

on greed and apricots

It’s been a really good fruit tree year. We had a warm spring and for once it stayed warm rather than the usual pattern of being 80 degrees in February and then snowing the hell all over us in March. For California in particular this has meant abundant, delicious, and cheap stone fruit. The cherries especially have been spectacular.

I have a big Moorpark apricot tree in my garden; it was years old when we moved in and has only grown bigger ten years since. This area is actually unsuitable for apricots; with the cold springs we get the tree only gives me fruit about every fourth year, like the apricot olympics. When I get apricots, though, I get a LOT of soft, creamy, intensely flavored ‘cots. Cots up to my eyeballs. I adore apricots so every year I anxiously watch the weather hoping for a good fruit tree year.

Over the last few years I’ve been terribly neglectful in pruning the tree and this year I was regretting it. The tree hadn’t grown up so much as out with the branches stretching longer and longer on all sides. I would cut the lowest branches so that I could walk under the tree and the branches higher up would sag lower down to replace them. The tree had grown so wide and dense it was shading the vegetable beds I had in the garden next to it.

This was the year I was planning to aggressively prune the tree. Definitely this year. But I forgot to do it in the spring when it was dormant, and then we had a really good fruit tree year. The tree set hundreds and hundreds of tiny green apricots.

OK, I said. After the apricots turn ripe and come off the tree I’ll prune it.

Over the last month or two the apricots have been getting larger and larger, and the branches of the tree have been sagging lower and lower in my garden. I’ve been propping them up with sticks, worried that a branch might break off from the weight. With the branches hanging so low in the garden it was hard to walk around; I was always getting stuck in the arm and the back by wandering twigs. The shade from the branches was also causing problems with the vegetables in the neighboring beds. It may have been a good fruit tree year but it was going to be a terrible tomato year.

But every day the apricots got larger, and this last week they started to turn beautiful blushed pinky orange that my apricots have. Soon, I thought, coveting my apricots, squeezing the fruit every time I went by, testing them for goodness, and tasting future apricots in my mouth. Soon I would be able to start picking. Soon.

This morning I went out to the garden around lunch, and all was well.

This afternoon I looked out the kitchen window at the garden, and the apricot tree was gone. I could see all the way through the garden to the woods behind it. What? Hey! How…?

I had thought maybe worst case I might lose a branch. I didn’t expect the whole tree to split five ways right down the middle.

I didn’t want those dirty sour old apricots anyway, said the fox.