The CandyCot story is as unique as the fruit it’s named for. It began a decade ago when tree fruit grower Chris Britton was having lunch at a family friend’s house and he tasted the most delicious home-grown apricot from his friend’s test garden of more than 200 selections.
The lunch led to a partnership developed between the family friend, John Driver, and Britton Konynenburg Partners, a farming partnership between Britton and Paul Van Konynenburg. The new partnership with Driver enabled Britton and Konynenburg to grow about 150 apricot selections from Driver in an experimental plot.
Six were original varieties Driver brought from Central Asia; others were crosses he made from his Central Asian seedlings. Driver, who spent a career as a plant breeder, also spent more than a decade visiting Central Asia as a consultant and helping farmers. The Brittons helped sponsor his travels.
“While there, John was near the old silk trade route and worked in or visited countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan,” Britton said. “John was amazed at the diversity and intense flavor of apricot varieties he saw and, being a geneticist, brought back seeds, got them through quarantine channels, and began growing seedlings—all out of personal interest.”
Of the six original varieties in the Britton Konynenburg experimental plot, only two are still standing, Britton said. Most were not suitable to California’s climate or had other flaws.
Though the apricots are known in the market as CandyCots, Driver has named those in commercial production after some of the women he worked with in Central Asia. Anya and Yuliya are two of the named varieties that are planted for commercial production or part of testing agreements.
Editor note: The story has been modified on August 6, 2014, to clarify John Driver’s work history.