The apricot, scientifically named Prunus armeniaca or Armeniaca vulgaris, is a fruit-bearing tree native to China. It has from 8 to 12 m in height, with leaves measuring about 8 cm in length and 3-4 cm in width. The flowers can be white or pink and the fruit resembles peaches or nectarines, having a yellow, orange or even red colour. The surface of the fruit is smooth and nearly hairless; they have a single seed that is called stone. This apricot tree was brought in Europe by the Romans about 70 BC. In winter, apricots can resist up to -30 degrees or even lower. A real good apricot production depends mainly on the dry climate from the Mediterranean regions. Apricot seeds are an essential source of cyanogenic glycosides and laetrile that is considered to be a sort of treatment or cancer. Around the 17th century, apricot oil helped in treating tumors and ulcers. On the European continent, apricots were thought to be an aphrodisiac. The English folklore said that dreaming apricots brings good luck while the Chinese considered apricots a symbol of cowardice.
In Latin, apricot means "precious," a label earned because it ripens earlier than other summer fruits. A relative of the peach, the apricot is smaller and has a smooth, oval pit that falls out easily when the fruit is halved.
Apricots originally came from China. This golden fruit has been around for more than 4,000 years. Apricots progressively made their way through the Persian Empire to the Mediterranean where they were fondly adopted. Spanish explorers introduced the apricot to the New World, and they were planted in the gardens of Spanish missions all over California. The first recorded major production of apricots in America was in 1792 south of San Francisco.
In the United States, 95% of apricots grow in the San Joaquin Valley and other parts of northern California. More than 400 growers produce many varieties of apricots, the most common of which are featured in the table below. Growers continually experiment with new varieties that deliver sweet flavor and ship or process well.
Selection and Storage
Look for plump apricots with as much golden orange color as possible. Stay clear of fruit that is pale yellow, greenish-yellow, very firm, shriveled, or bruised. Apricots that are soft-ripe have the best flavor, but they must be eaten immediately.
Apricots will ripen at room temperature. To help them ripen, place them in a paper bag with an apple. When they yield to gentle pressure, they are ready to eat. Refrigerate ripe apricots, unwashed, in a paper or plastic bag up to 2 days. Wash them before eating. They are a perfect fast food anytime. To cut fruit, slice around its seam, twist it in half, and lift out the pit.
Apricots are available throughout the year from different regions:
- Mid-February through mid-March from Chile
- Mid-June through mid-July from California
- Mid-July through mid-August from Washington
Apricots are great to eat raw, but they are also terrific cooked. These are some common cooking methods:
Broiling or Grilling
Try threading the apricots (whole or halved) on skewers. Brush them with a little honey, and grill until semi-soft. Broiling apricots is easy. Simply halve the apricots, place them on a cookie sheet with the skin down and the cut side up, and heat for 7 to 10 minutes.
It’s a great method for making a delicious sauce. Simply place the apricots with their skins intact into simmering water or fruit juice, and cook until tender. Adding spices such as cinnamon or cloves enhances the apricot taste. When the apricots are tender, the poaching liquid can be used as a sauce. Poaching takes about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Fruit of the Month: Apricot by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource—original source of article