Apricots are a type of stone fruit widely enjoyed for their sweet and slightly tart taste. They are packed with nutrients like vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium and are known for their versatility in both sweet and savory dishes.
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What is an Apricot?
The apricot (Prunus armeniaca) is a variety of drupe believed to have originated in China. Today, apricots are grown in many regions with temperate climates, including California, Mediterranean countries, and parts of Asia.
Apricots have a round or oval shape, with soft, fuzzy skin ranging from pale yellow to orange with a slight red blush. The juicy flesh of the apricot is typically golden-orange and is slightly tart when ripe. The apricot’s inner pit or seed is almond-shaped and isn’t edible.
Ripe apricots have a delicate, fragrant aroma that is floral and fruity. The texture of apricots is soft and velvety, with a juicy flesh that is sometimes described as “meaty.”
Apricots are a nutritious fruit that is low in calories and high in fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. They are often eaten fresh as a snack but can also be used for many culinary applications, including baked goods, jams, apricot preserves, and sauces. Dried apricots are also a popular snack often used in trail mixes and other snacks.
Popular apricot cultivars include:
- ‘Wenatchee Moorpark’
The History of Apricots
Historical records suggest that apricot fruits were first grown and cultivated in Turkistan, dating back to at least 5000 years ago. The fruit made its way to Anatolia during Alexander the Great’s expeditions in the 4th century BC and became the second home of the Anatolian Apricot.
Later, the fruit was introduced to Italy and Greece during the Roman and Persian wars. Eventually, Armenian traders brought it to other parts of Europe in the 13th century and, finally, to America in the 17th century.
Although you can find apricots in many regions globally, they are mainly grown in the Mediterranean and across Europe and Central Asia. Turkey is the largest producer of apricots accounting for 22% of these fruits, followed by Uzbekistan, Iran, Italy, and Algeria.
What Does an Apricot Taste Like?
Raw apricots have a sweet, slightly tart flavor and a soft, juicy texture. The taste can be described as a combination of flavors, including sweet honey, citrus-like tartness, and some floral notes.
When cooked, apricots tend to become sweeter and softer. Baking, roasting, or grilling apricots can bring out caramelized flavors. Apricots are commonly used in desserts, such as pies, tarts, cakes, and savory dishes, like a glazed lamb, pork, and chicken.
How to Tell When Apricots are Ripe
Here are some tips to help you know when apricots are ready to eat:
|Apricots should be deep orange when they are ripe. If they are still pale, they are not yet mature.
|Ripe apricots should be slightly soft when gently squeezed. However, they may be overripe if they are too soft or mushy.
|Ripe apricots have a sweet, fruity aroma. If they don’t smell like anything, they are probably not ripe yet.
|Check the Stem
|If the stem is still attached and difficult to remove, the apricot is not yet ripe. Ripe apricots should have stems that come off easily.
|Taste a sample
|If unsure whether an apricot is ripe, try sampling one. A ripe apricot should be sweet and juicy with a pleasant texture.
What’s the Difference Between Apricots and Peaches?
Apricots and peaches are both members of the drupe family, which means they have a fleshy outer layer and a hard inner pit containing a seed. However, there are several differences between these two fruits:
|Smaller and rounder than peaches, with velvety skin ranging from yellow to orange.
|Larger and have fuzzy skin that can be red, yellow, or white.
|Sweet, slightly tart flavor
|Sweeter and juicier
|Firm Texture with drier flesh
|Softer texture when ripe with jucier flesh
|High in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber
|Also high in vitamin C potassium and fiber, but also contain more vitamin A
|Preferred to be used in tarts and jams
|Used in pies, cobblers, and smoothies
Cooking with Apricots
Apricots are versatile stone fruit used in various dishes, including desserts, sauces, jams, and savory dishes. Here’s how to prepare apricots for cooking:
- Wash the apricots under running water and pat them dry.
- Cut the apricots in half and remove the pit from the center. You can also use a paring knife to cut around the pit and remove it.
- If the recipe calls for peeled apricots, you can blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove them and plunge them into an ice water bath. This will loosen the skin and make it easier to peel off.
Apricots are commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in savory dishes like tagines and stews, or in Mediterranean cuisine in sweet and savory dishes. Apricots are also used in Western cuisine, particularly in desserts like tarts, pies, and crumbles. Apricot clafoutis is a French dessert that combines fresh apricots with a sweet custard-like batter.
Our favorite apricot recipes:
Apricot and Pistachio Cookies: These cookies are a great way to get your apricots in. They’re simple, but they make a statement! The sweet apricots balance the buttery flavor of the nuts.
Rosemary Duck with Apricots: Oh, the perfect combination of sweet and savory! Fresh apricots are an excellent addition to this juicy duck meat.
Apricot Loaf Cake: This spongey cake becomes soft and moist with the addition of some delicious apricots. And it’s effortless to make.
Summer Apricot Cocktail: Combining dry vermouth, hazelnut extract, and just a bit of lime juice, this cocktail is a perfect blend of sweet, nutty, and tangy. Perfect for summer!
Moroccan Lamb with Apricots: This dish combines lamb, apricots, almonds, and mint for a sweet and savory dish complemented by nuttiness and freshness.
How to Store Apricots
In the pantry: Your apricots will be in peak condition only for 1-2 days if stored this way. If you want to extend the life of your apricots, avoid putting them in direct sunlight or washing them too early, as this can cause them to overripen quickly.
Fridge: Refrigeration is your best bet to enjoy your apricots within a week. Put them in a plastic bag or container and pop them in the refrigerator.
Freezer: If you want to store them longer, freezing is a good option. Cut the fruit into desired sizes, freeze them on a sheet pan, and store them in a zip-top bag or container.
Dehydration: Once dehydrated, they take on a chewy texture and can last up to a year and a half in the freezer.
Nutritional Benefits of Apricots
Apricots offer many health benefits due to their abundance of vitamins, flavonoids, and potassium.
- Flavonoids, for instance, play a crucial role in shielding and reinforcing blood vessels while diminishing inflammation.
- Potassium, a vital mineral for muscle and nerve function, also aids in transporting essential nutrients throughout the body and supports healthy blood pressure and heart function.
- Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can protect your skin cells from harmful UV radiation, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and enhance skin elasticity.
- The beta-carotene in apricots can also help guard against sunburn and further skin damage.
- Vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein, and other carotenoids are beneficial for maintaining healthy vision.
- Lastly, apricots can contribute to better digestion as they are rich in dietary fiber.
Where to Buy Apricots
You will likely find apricots in the produce section in most grocery stores, usually near other stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. Specialty food stores may carry various apricot products, such as dried apricots, apricot jams, and liqueurs. Farmers’ markets are also great places to find fresh, locally grown apricots during the peak season.
The peak season for apricots in the United States is from May to August. However, some varieties of apricots may be available earlier or later in the season, depending on the location.