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The Best Place in the World for Organic Apricots and the Guy Who Finds Them
We just got back from Turkey – the best place in the world for organic, sun-dried apricots. By “we,” we mean, Paolo Bonetti, Made In Nature’s Director of Procurement. By “best,” we mean, bronzed, unsulfured, perfectly ripened apricot perfection. Ok, so maybe we’re a little jealous this “we” doesn’t include the entire Made In Nature team, but we get it. Paolo knows his stuff, and whatever magic he’s weaving abroad is keeping our hands continually in the apricot bag at home. Luckily, he was more than happy to chat with us.
What were you doing in Turkey?
I went to Turkey at this particular time of year because the apricots are almost going to be harvested. I wanted to go visit the farms in the remote central region of Turkey called Malatya. It’s a huge valley at about 4,000 feet in altitude that has hundreds and thousands of apricot trees. I was there with our CEO, Doug Brent. We visited many farms and there was a lot of nice fruit on the trees. I learned about how the trees are irrigated, how they’re harvested and dried.
Director of Procurement? What does that mean?
Basically, I do all the buying of everything. One aspect of this is ensuring our fruit is of the highest quality by visiting Made In Nature farms. In Turkey, I wanted to see the manure that’s being used for fertilizers. Because all of our fruit is organic, we don’t use chemicals. We do this all along the supply chain so we can say, “hey, we actually know these farms.”
What was it like at the farms?
Pretty awesome. You’re surrounded by these impressive trees. A good apricot tree producing at its maximum is maybe producing 200 lbs. of dried apricots per tree. These trees are somewhere between 5 and 12 years old and have a trunk girth between 12 and 18 inches. They’re maybe 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
When we were there the fruit was so green. Without a trained eye, it’s almost hard to see the fruit. I was with people who were like, “Oh, my god look at that tree, there’s so much apricot on that tree.” It took me a little while to see the apricots because they were still green.
What makes Turkish apricots so special?
The land is just so fertile. It’s one of the cradles of civilization. They’ve been growing fruit for thousands of years there because this is where it grows the best.
Our apricots are sun-dried and unsulfured so they’re super natural. When the fruit is ready they shake the tree. The apricots fall onto tarps. They bring the tarps out into the sun and they dry for about three days. When you sun dry them, the water evaporates and the sugar and pulp is concentrated. They get nice and brown. A brown apricot may not look as appealing, but it’s actually much better. Sundried apricots really taste like apricots – they’ve got that real apricot flavor. There’s nothing else like them.
Where’s your next trip and can “we” go?
In October, I’ll be heading to Tunisia to visit some of our Deglet Noor Date producers. Maybe?