Believed to be a native of China, the apricot was brought to Europe from Armenia. Hence the name Prunus armenaica. Apricot seedlings were carried to America by Spanish missionaries mostly on the Western coast.One of the largest producers of dried apricots is Turkey.
The apricot grows in regions which have a cold winter. The tree is hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as −30 °C.
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All about apricots
Belonging to the same genus as peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh. They are not too juicy. They are smooth and sweet to taste wiitha a musky flavor.
Apricots are summer fruits.
Selecting, storing and using
Ripe apricots should be a rich orange color but should be fairly firm. They bruise easily when ripe so it is important to choose unblemished and undamaged fruit. Apricots that are too firm are not tree ripened and will not smell or taste as good as the tree ripened fruits.
Ripe apricots will last for a week in the refrigerator. Unripe apricots should be stored at room temperature but away from direct light. Ripe apricots can be preserved in various ways such as in the form of purees, sorbets, jams etc.
They can also be added to cereals and yoghurt or to cakes and desserts.Apricots are often used to make wines.
Ways to use apricots:
- Use them in fruit salads.
- Purée apricots for sauces. The sauces are especially good on pancakes, desserts, or meat.
- Use apricots as a substitute in recipes that call for peaches.
- Use them in fruit smoothies.
- Add apricots to cereals.
Apricot kernel oil is high in vitamin A and minerals. It is an excellent moisturiser and revitalizer for the skin.It is also very good for sensitive skin. It spreads easily and is popular with therapists and masseurs.
Apricot and health
Apricots are full of nutrients which help to protect the eyes and the heart. They contain vitamins as well as iron and substsntial amounts of beta-carotene.They also contain a high amount of lycopene which strengthens the immune system of the body.
Although apricots are often overlooked in favour of other fruits eating two apricots a day can provide much of the vitamin A required by the body. Vitamin A is essential for good eyesight is also a powerful antioxidant. It protects the cells and tissues of the eyes from the effect of free radicals. Free radicals can damage the eyes and also cause cataracts. A study proved that people who had a high vitamin A intake reduced their chance of developing cataracts by atleast 40%.
The high fiber content of apricots help digestion and prevent constipation. A healthy diet should ideally include some apricots to increase the fiber intake of the body. The nutrients in dried apricots are more concentrated than in the fresh ones.
- Australian Aborigines used apricots as an aphrodisiac in the form of a tea made from the seed.
- Apricots are taboo amongst tank driving soldiers.Tankers will not allow apricots onto their vehicles.Apparently this superstition has something to do with the breakdown of Sherman tanks in the presence of apricot cans.
- English folklore has it that it is lucky to dream of apricots.
- The Chinese regard the apricot as a symbol of cowardice.
- In Greek mythology it is believed that the "golden apples" of Hesperides which Hercules was tasked to pick in the eleventh of his twelve labors were actually apricots.