A friend who grew up in California mentioned the other day that his folks had an apricot tree in the back yard. He went on and on about how wonderful the apricots were, and how much he loved them.
I flew into a jealous rage!
OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration -- but I really was jealous. We had apricots in the house all the time when I was growing up -- do you know any Armenians who didn't? -- but mostly the dried sort.
Fresh apricots, whether from the store or the fruit stand, were nothing to write epic poems about. They were sort of sweet, sort of soft.
Just sort of OK.
All my life, I've heard about the almost mythical sweetness and abundance of real Armenian apricots, one of the nation's greatest natural blessings.
Now comes sad news that the original prunus armeniaca has dealt the mother country a cruel blow.
The Web site EurasiaNet.org reports that freezing temperatures in March and heavy rains have done severe damage to the orchards of the Ararat Valley, the heart of Armenia's apricot-growing region.
The agriculture ministry predicts a loss of more than 30 percent of this year's harvest compared to last year's 85,000 tons.
The resulting shortage is so severe that bananas are actually cheaper than apricots in Yerevan.
The devastating news here is not the Armenians will have to make do with last year's apricot preserves but that farmers are struggling to pay their bills and the country's economy is taking a huge hit from the loss of a key export.
There are also real questions about the quality of the fruit that has been salvaged. The Eurasianet.org report quotes one orchard owner who worried that it was too late to do much with his "speckled" crop.
"We must survive until next year, then we'll see what we can do," the owner said. "Still, a question remains whether we'll manage or not."