Before planting our two apricot trees, I rarely would eat apricots from the store. When I did, they were either mushy, mealy or tough. I also would eat dried apricots, but dried fruit cannot compare to fresh fruit.
My eyes were opened when our first crop of Moorpark fresh apricots ripened. Without doubt, fresh, ripened apricots are the treasure of our fruit garden. The taste, texture, and sweetness was otherworldly. Because apricots are so tender and do not ship well, a homegrown apricot is one of the types of fruit that really excels over what you can find in the stores. For that reason, in my opinion, one or two apricot trees can be a very rewarding addition to your fruit orchard if you have the space.
Now, keep in mind that apricots get a pretty bad rap. They have a reputation of being very finicky. One of the main issues is that they tend to bear biennially -- every other year -- or worse. In fact, they have a reputation for sometime producing fruit only once every five years! My trees have produced every other year, to date. A major issue in obtaining reliable fruit production is the vulnerability of apricot fruit buds. Apricots have a reputation for blooming very early in the Spring such that their blossoms are damaged if a late freezes occurs (which is often the case in Texas and the South) -- harming fruit set. Many apricot varieties will be the first to bloom in your garden. This risk can be reduced by selecting later blooming varieties.
Northwest Texas fruit grower Richard Ashton wrote an informative article on growing Apricots in Texas for The Texas Gardener a few years back, and this article continues to be relevant. You can read the article here. Ashton's website for his Oak Creek Orchard also cites to a prior article printed in NAFEX's Pomona Magazine by Richard Purvis which is equally informative: Apricots - A Wider Geographic Possibility?
Texas A&M's material on apricots and other stone fruit can be found - here.
In terms of variety selection, Ashton suggests a variety developed at the research station at Prosser, Washington called Tomcot. Ashton states that although Tomcot does not bloom late, it blooms over a three week period of time which means that "if the first blooms are bitten by a late frost the later blooms have a good chance of producing fruit." Tomcat matures early, can be of good size, and I have read several reports that it has outstanding flavor and sweetness. It is a favorite of some growers. Ashton writes that its size makes Tomcot appropriate as a commercial apricot because of its large size and good shipping qualities.
Ashton also suggests a central Asian apricot variety called Jerseycot. This variety is a cross between an asian and french variety. It is reported to bloom nearly two weeks later than most American apricot varieties. You may have to do some searching to find this variety.
In other material, Ashton also recommends Bryan's orange fleshed, medium sized fruit that ripens in late May to early June. Ashton also recommends the following varieties for their later blooming habits:
"Hunza - Very sweet, small fruit on a very late blooming tree. This tree takes a little longer to start bearing, not as productive as some but the very sweet fruit are worth it. (Close to 30 brix). Considered a sweet-pit apricot, we have not tried the kernels. We have one hunza variety apricot but there are several hunza type apricot varieties. They come from the hunza valley of far northern Pakistan where people live to be older than in most areas and cancer is practically unknown, the hunza people eat mainly millet and apricot products ie. dried apricots, apricot kernels (roasted) and apricot kernel oil. This variety has a high chill requirement and is only suited for northern plantings. Matures about June 5th in west-central Texas. Good size with excellent taste.
Chinese (Morman) - Heavy producer of small to medium, golden fruit with a red blush. Very Cold and late frost hardy. This was one of the first trees recommended for late frost prone areas, now we have others as shown here. This is a very good tasting, semi-clingstone fruit. Some people consider this a sweet-pit apricot, we have not tried them. Blooms and fruit seem to be more resistant of cold weather than most varieties. Matures about June 10th in west-central Texas.
Tilton – Good fresh or processed. Medium to large fruit, firm, rich flavored. Adaptable tree, late blooming but not the latest. Ripens about June 1st in west-central Texas. Good sized fruit with excellent taste.
Tisdale – Medium sized, freestone, good flavored fruit on a consistently bearing tree. A later blooming tree. From Roy Tisdale in Belton, Texas. Matures early about May 20th in west-central Texas. Medium sized fruit with very good taste.
Harglow -- Medium size, dark orange with red blush, firm, sweet fruit on a late blooming tree. Early to mid season ripening fruit.
Goldensweet (pp#8932)-- Freestone, sweet (15-18 brix), frim fruit on a moderately vigorous, productive tree. Blooms about a week later than common varieties. Self-fruitful.
Texas A&M also recommends some of the same varieties as Ashton -- Bryan and Chinese. A&M further recommends Blenheim and Moorpark, stating:
"Blenheim is a medium size fruit with orange peel and yellow flesh. It has been the most consistent variety across the state and ripens in late June.
Moorpark has medium to large fruit with orange flesh that ripens in mid-June.
Bryan ripens in late May to early June with orange fleshed medium size fruit.
Chinese (or Mormon) seems to be more cold hardy in some locations as it has an extended bloom. Fruit are small to medium in size."
Another North Texas grower has told me that Robado is one of his favorites for taste and that he has had success with it.
Blenheim and Moorpark are common commercial varieties. I am growing both Blenheim and Moorpark. In my garden, my Blenheim and Moorpark trees are not genearlly the first fruit trees to bloom. The pluots, plumcots, pluots, and cherries bloom shortly before the apricots. My trees have produced fruit biennially, to date.
Apricots are self-fruitful, but it is always better to have more than one variety to help with pollination.
As to chill hours below 45 degrees, many varieties need 700 hours of chill hours. However, there are varieties that require less. For example, Ashton suggests that Gold Kist has a lower chilling requirement of 300 hours and Katy only needs 400 hour chill hours.
For other listed varieties, I cannot pers0nally vouch for the following chill hour requirements, but these are some of the levels that are being reported by nurseries:
Tomcot - 500 hours
Tilton - 600 hours
Tisdale – 600 hours
Harglow -- 800 hours
Blenheim - 400 hours
Moorpark - 600 hours
Dallas, Texas generally gets 700 - 800 chill hours in a typical year.
If you live in Texas and do not know what chill hours you typically get in a given year, go to this site for that information - Texas chill hours.
If you live in the Southeast in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina or South Carolina, this is a really cool tool to determine your chill hours - Southeast chill hours.
California also provides good information - California chill hours.
Alternatively, here is a national map created by the University of Maryland: