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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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April 2, 2008 6:40 AM

Trees, Bees and My Son's "Famous" Apricot Sauce

Posted by Nancy Leson

The weather's been nuts this last week, which has me worrying about our apricot tree and the fruit I'm hoping it will bear this summer. I love that tree. It was the "free" part of a "buy four and get one free" promotion from Raintree Nursery over a decade ago. Unlike our other drawf fruit trees (cherries and apples) the apricot took five years to produce, and when it did: Man-oh-Manischewitz! Those were some of the sweetest apricots I'd ever tasted. But what's up with this snow? On the first buds of spring, no less?

Last year, our crop was unbelievable, and I'm giving credit where it's due: to a posse of mason bees and the men who keep them. Those bees live large, right here in this bee condo:

Nate built it last year at Cub Scouts, though I've seen less rustic versions for sale at Sky Nursery, where the boys buy their bees, which come in a small plastic canister kept in the fridge till it's time to put them into that hole in the bottom of the condo. When the weather's still cold, the bees remain dormant. Once it warms up, they emerge from their cocoons, fly around the yard "imprinting" and doing that pollination thing. Then it's Miller Time, and they head back to the condo to chill out and watch Bee Movie while munching on Honey Nut Cheerios.

Apparently, the bee thing is working, because our harvest last year was outstanding. We're still pulling gallon-bags of halved, pitted fruit out of the freezer and making good use of the fruit. About a month ago, I made some darling tartlets using a simple Martha Stewart recipe for pate brisee. And now my son has taken to making what he calls "Special Dessert," which is essentially vanilla ice cream with warm apricot sauce. A chip off both old blocks, he likes to cook. And the recipe, which he composed himself, involves reducing the fruit with brandy, adding brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon, then swirling in some butter. Here he is in action:

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