Luizet Apricot

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >

Abricot Luizet

The Luizet apricot (Prunus armeniaca) is a late variety native to Canton Valais in Switzerland. The deciduous tree is tall and relatively sensitive to spring frosts. The fruit is medium-sized, light orange or orange-yellow and without the so-called ‘red cheek’, typical of other varieties such as Bergeron. The skin is tender and brittle, while the pulp is soft, juicy and delicate. The Luizet has excellent aromatic qualities and its flavour offers an excellent balance between sweetness and acidity when picked when ripe. It is an excellent table fruit, ideal for the preparation of jams and various desserts due to the pulp that flakes during cooking. Some restaurants in the area use this late fruit to prepare desserts and its jam is prepared at home by Valais families. The Luizet apricot, however, is mainly used for the production of Abricotine AOC, a local product listed in the Inventory of Swiss Culinary Heritage.

The Canton of Valais is the main producer of apricots in Switzerland (98% of total production). Here, unlike the new varieties, Luizet is often still cultivated in tall orchards, playing an essential role in preserving the landscape and protecting biodiversity. Moreover, some producers still practice agro-forestry grazing in the centuries-old Luizet orchards by grazing their Hèrens cows (a breed featured on the Ark of Taste). The fruit harvest is relatively late and takes place between mid-July and mid-August, depending on the year. Yields are very uncertain due to periodic frosts, hail (rare) and pests such as the Drosophila suzukii fly (although it tends to be considered a pest- and disease-resistant variety). Rainfall can also cause spotting, scab or splitting of the fruit. The main problem with this fruit is its poor shelf life, even in the refrigerator, which makes it unsuitable for marketing. For this reason, over time, producers have begun to replace the variety with others that are more preservable, almost completely supplanting it.

The Luizet apricot is the oldest known variety planted in Valais, recorded with certainty from the second half of the 19th century in Saxon and Martigny. It was created in 1838 by Gabriel Luizet, a botanist abbot from Lyon, and then imported into Valais by a Lyon emigrant, Joseph Sablier. Until the end of the 1980s, the variety still accounted for almost all the apricot orchards in the region, but from 1990, due to its relatively late production and poor shelf life, the federal and cantonal authorities in Valais set up subsidy programmes to replace 50% of the area cultivated with Luizet with other, more profitable varieties. Since then, the area of Luizet cultivated in Valais has continued to decline until it has been reduced by more than 82%. In 2018, the Agroscope Institute in Conthey created two new varieties, Lisa and Mia, selected by crosses with Luizet, which aim to maintain the latter’s taste qualities while developing disease resistance, improving handling and storage capacity, and promoting earlier harvesting. Today, Luizet apricots can still be found in some private gardens in Valais, but even here, many have been uprooted in favour of new varieties. In some years, such as 2021 and 2022, production was almost nil, which also had a direct impact on the production of AOC apricots.

For these reasons, today Valais apricot growers are no longer motivated to continue growing Luizet, and only producers who distill their own fruit or sell it directly remain interested in the variety. It is therefore necessary to protect and valorise this emblematic variety of Valais and its tradition.

Back to the archive >

Territory

StateSwitzerland
Region

Valais

Production area:Between Saxon and Martigny

Other info

Categories

Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Slow Food Svizzera