An apricot is a fruit or the tree that bears the fruit. Usually, an apricot tree is from the tree species Prunus armeniaca, but the species Prunus brigantina, Prunus mandshurica, Prunus mume, and Prunus sibirica are closely related, have similar fruit, and are also called apricots.
Fresh ripe apricots are a boon when found, since they do not travel well. The majority of ripe apricot crops are dried, with often less than one-fourth of the harvest coming to the market fresh.
Most fresh apricots sold to market are picked when not quite mature and still firm to reduce shipping damage. While they will ripen in colour, texture, and juiciness after being picked, the flavour and sweetness will remain at the same level as when they were picked and will not improve.
Apricots range in colour from yellow to deep orange, often with red or rosy touches. When selecting fresh apricots, look for fruits with no touch of green whatsoever. The fruits vary in size from about 3 – 6cm in diameter. The flesh should yield to gentle pressure when held in the palm of your hand, and the fruit should have a bright, ripe aroma. Avoid those that are bruised, soft, or mushy.
If you are not blessed with an apricot tree and vine-ripened fruit, apricots will continue to ripen if left at room temperature in a paper bag, away from sunlight. Check the ripening progress often as they will quickly deteriorate. They will never achieve the same full sweet flavour as tree-ripened, but will be better than off the shelf. Once ripened, store for no more than a few days in the refrigerator.
To freeze, slice apricots in half and remove the pit, which will impart a bitter flavour. Dip in an ascorbic acid solution to discourage discolouration. Place in airtight baggies in the freezer up to 3 months.
With some varieties, the skin will become tough if frozen without blanching first. Simply blanch in boiling water for one minute, plunge into cold water, drain and freeze. Apricots may also be packed in sugar or syrup for freezing and frozen up to 1 year.
If you are planning to dry or can your apricots, be sure you have chosen a freestone variety. With freestone varieties, the flesh will easily separate from the pit. Most apricots in the market are freestone varieties.
Sun-dried apricots will be a bit tougher than dehydrated. Dried apricots should be stored in the refrigerator. If stored at temperatures above 23°C, the fruit becomes hard, dark in colour, and will lose nutrient value. Sealed bags can be stored no more than 1 month at room temperature, but up to 6 months in the refrigerator. If your dried apricots become too brittle, they can be softened by soaking in liquid or by steaming.
Surprisingly, commercial canned apricots often have a much fuller flavour than fresh apricots from the market. This is because the apricots are left on the tree longer to ripen and naturally develop more flavour. The loss of nutrients during the canning process is negligible.
Our apricot recipes include those for fresh, canned, dried apricots, apricot juice, and apricot preserves.
The sweet flavour of ripe apricots and dried apricots is highlighted in our healthy apricot recipes, including apricot sauces, apricot desserts and recipes for apricot chicken. Try our Seared Chicken with Apricot Sauce for a healthy apricot recipe for dinner or enjoy our Apricot Cobbler for a delicious old-fashioned apricot dessert.
See also : Apricot kernel
Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet, they may be substituted for almonds. The Italian liqueur amaretto and amaretti biscotti are flavoured with extract of apricot kernels rather than almonds. Oil pressed from these cultivar kernels, and known as oil of almond, has been used as cooking oil. Kernels contain between 2.05% and 2.40% hydrogen cyanide, but normal consumption is insufficient to produce serious effects.
See also : Dried apricot
Dried apricots are a type of traditional dried fruit. When treated with sulphur dioxide (E220), the colour is vivid orange. Organic fruit not treated with sulphur vapour is darker in colour and has a coarser texture. The world’s largest producer of dried apricots is Turkey.