Roussillon in particular is well known for its apricot orchards and there is even an apricot named after the area – the Rouge de Roussillon. Apricots originated in North China but were given the Latin name of Prunus Armeniaca by Linnaeus in 1753 as they were thought to have come from Armenia. The apricot made its way down into Europe via the Silk Roads and then by Alexander the Great and the Romans. The first mention of cultivating apricots in France is in the 16th century and apricot trees were planted in the gardens of Versailles in 1626.
The only apricot that is native to Europe – the Briançon Apricot – can be found in south east France. The fruit resembles a golden cherry tomato, tastes like a plum, and botanists class it as a fuzz-less little apricot. The main apricot varieties grown around the Languedoc Roussillon are Canino (Bulida du Roussillon), Mariem and Helena du Roussillon. Apricots are eaten fresh, made into the liqueur Eau de Noyaux (prepared from bitter apricot kernels), turned into conserves and used in a myriad of desserts.
Apricot Clafoutis is a delicious dessert and takes its name from the Occitan clafotís, meaning "to fill up". This recipe is from Jennifer Greco's blog based in the Languedoc Roussillon ChezLouLou - if you are interested in fantastic food and rural France check it out!
12oz fresh apricots, pitted and cut in half
1 cup minus 2 tbsp sifted flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, cut into 6 pieces
Pre-heat oven to 450ºF. Butter and lightly flour a 9½ inch round tart pan or baking dish with deep sides. Place the apricots, cut side down, in the tart pan,Combine the flour and the salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Add 1 cup of the milk and whisk until completely smooth, then add the eggs, one by one, whisking briefly after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla sugar, the vanilla extract and the remaining 1 cup of milk. Pour the batter over the apricots and dot with the butter pieces.Place in the centre of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.