Black Velvet apricots are classified as a stone fruit alongside plums, cherries, peaches, mangoes and almonds. The name, Black Velvet, is a designated trade name for a natural cross hybrid between plums and apricots. The horticultural recipe is part plum and part apricot, though the exact pedigree is never absolute.
The Black Velvet apricot is among hundreds of fruit cultivars that have different, complex wide combinations of parentage. This natural hybridization has been taking place since the beginning of the 20th Century. Breeders used to develop varieties and choose names that paid homage to their ancestry. Now their names are being chosen for marketing purposes while obscuring the fruit's genetics. Although Black Velvet is an alluring descriptive name indicating to the consumer what to expect, it does not explain that the fruit is actually also part plum.
The Black Velvet apricot has the initial appearance of an orb-shaped dark plum, a physical trait inherited from its plum parentage. Its skin is covered with a near invisible fuzz, which gives it a smooth velvet finish. The fruit's flesh is golden hued with tones of ruby red where the flesh meets the skin. When ripe, the flesh is sweet forward with a bright and tangy finishing mouthful. The flesh has a soft melting quality with layers of juice that make the fruit's consistency delicious when just ripe, yet once overly mature can become mealy and less pleasant, as the fruit continues to ripen after being picked.
Black Velvet apricots are best utilized for fresh eating. They also make delicious compotes, jams, ice creams and reductions. Complimentary flavors include vanilla, nutmeg, tropical fruits and citrus. Savory pairings include mild fresh cheeses such as chevre and ricotta, herbs such as arugula, chiles, fennel and basil, bacon, lamb and raw sashimi grade seafood such as albacore and scallops. To store, refrigerate ripe fruit only a few days, as its shelf-life is brief and quality will be compromised once harvested.
The apricot is native to and originally discovered in the mountainous regions of north central and north western China. Trade routes, exploration and time would spread the fruit from Asia into Europe and eventually the New World. Most New World apricots are of European origins. The Black Velvet apricot is a 21st Century proprietary variety developed by Kingsburg Orchards.
It is one of several Kingsburg Orchard proprietary varieties that are identified within a series of "Velvet" type apricots, including Red, Gold, Crimson, Blue and Ruby Velvet. These interspecific fruits rely on utilizing rootstock to develop new crops. Black Velvet apricots thrive in climates where winter temperatures are cool but not cold and the summer season is long, warm and dry.