The Swiss canton of Valais has a reputation for producing delicious apricots. Every year, I have to try and wait patiently for the season to start. You may have already tasted these sweet, acidic stone fruits during the summer, but how well do you really know them? Test your knowledge below with my 10 facts about les abricots du Valais.
1. Valais produces more apricots than any other canton in Switzerland.
With over 700 hectares devoted to apricots, Valais accounts for about 97 percent of Swiss apricots. The canton of Thurgau ranks second place for its apricot production.
The apricot is celebrated every two years at the Fête de l’abricot, held in Saxon.
2. You can find over 70 different varieties of apricots in Switzerland.
For many years, the Luizet was just about the only variety of apricot in Switzerland. Since the 1990s, dozens of other varieties were introduced in Valais. Why? To have a selection of different apricots that are more durable for transport. These new varieties also created a longer season, as they included early- and late-season apricots.
3. The season for Swiss apricots generally runs from the end of June to mid-September.
With a larger selection of apricots, the season includes varieties that ripen in early June, such as the Robada, Orangered and Chrisgold. The Luizet ripens in July and August, with apricot varieties such as Harogem, Bergeron, Tardif de Tain et Tardif de Valence harvested in August and even into September. Check out the list maintained by Interprofession des fruits et légumes du Valais for more details about the different varieties.
4. Valais apricots grow primarily in the Rhone Valley, on the south side of the river between Sierre and Vernayaz.
This area has a micro-climate with sunny, dry conditions where apricots can thrive. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the first known documentation of apricots in Valais comes from a book by Dr. Schiner, Description du département du Simplon, published in 1812.
5. It’s estimated that about 2 kilograms of apricots are consumed per person each year in Switzerland.
Half of these apricots come from Valais. Each year, this canton produces approximately 8,200 tons of apricots. The others come from other European nations, such as Italy, France and Spain.
6. The Luizet variety is commonly used to make Abricotine AOP.
To receive the AOP (Appellation d’origine protégée) designation, this eau-de-vie must have a minimum alcohol content of 40 percent, and the apricots also must be grown in Valais. In addition, all other aspects of production must take place in this Swiss canton, such as storing, fermenting, distilling and bottling. Abricotine AOP is generally considered a digestif, perhaps after a hearty meal of boiled potatoes and Raclette du Valais AOP.
7. A classic recipe from Valais is the Tarte aux abricots.
Typically made with a short crust pastry, this apricot tart has a custard filling. Before pouring in the filling, many recipes call for you to sprinkle the pastry with ground almonds or hazelnuts.
If you want to make one at home, Valais/Wallis Promotion has shared a recipe for this famous Swiss dessert: Tarte à l’abricot valaisanne.
8. Along with desserts, apricots can also complement savory dishes.
For example, during my visit to La Grange Rouge in Martigny, Chef Laurent Hubert from the Hôtel Nest- und Bietschhorn in Blatten served a three-course meal with apricots in every dish. For the first course, we had a salad with fresh apricots, feta cheese and tomatoes. And for the main course, he paired apricots with Swiss perch filets, which included a delicious little tart with onions. The bright color of the apricots and their acidity lend well to both sweet and savory dishes.
9. In addition to the raw fruit, you can find other food products made with apricots from Valais.
A variety of apricot-based products, certified as from this region, feature the special red “Valais” logo. Some examples of these products, in addition to Abricotine AOP, include those from Iris, such as compotes, juices and nectar. You’ll also find apricot wine, jam, chutney, ice cream and more.
10. Apricot growers can face challenges due to adverse weather conditions.
In 2021, cold weather in April caused Valais to lose roughly 85 percent of its apricot crop. If you want to buy Swiss apricots, try contacting the producers or regional sales outlets directly. Here is a list maintained by Valais / Wallis Promotion: Vente de produits locaux.
- Apricots, Valais/Wallis Promotion
- Abricotine (AOP), abricots du Valais, Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse
- Abricotine AOP, Association suisse des AOP-IGP
- Abricots, Interprofession des fruits et légumes du Valais
Please note: I attended this press event at La Grange Rouge in Martigny, Switzerland, as a guest of Valais / Wallis Promotion, and I received these apricots and other products as gifts.