What is an apricot?
The apricot is the perfect size for a snack – tear open the juicy, fragrant fruit and pop half into your mouth. Although a favourite in desserts, such as delicate tarts of glistening, deep-orange apricot slices served with whipped cream, this fruit is not limited to the sweet things in life. Dried apricots are cooked with meat and spices to infuse their flavour into many savoury Middle Eastern stews and rice dishes. Glorious apricot chutney can accompany spicy Indian curries, as it tempers the heat of these dishes.
The botanical name for the apricot reflects the fact that ancient civilisations thought that apricots originated in Armenia. In fact, they were most likely cultivated in China more than 4,000 years ago. Traders carried apricots along the Silk Road through Asia and Persia to the Mediterranean.
Eventually, apricots were cultivated in Europe and the English brought them to Australia. Victoria is now one of the main producers of apricots in the world.
In Australia, apricots are not sold by variety. Varieties such as Moorpark, Trevatt, Story, Hunter and Riverbrite are good for drying. Moorpark, Blenheim, Earlicot, Supergold and Katy are good for eating fresh.
Why apricots are good to eat
- Apricots are a very good source of vitamins A and C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body).
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Apricots contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of apricots supplies 200 kJ.
How are apricots grown and harvested?
Apricots grow best in Mediterranean-type climates where winters are cool. The tree loses its leaves in winter (deciduous). Cool winters are needed so that the apricot trees become fully dormant (inactive) and produce fruit in summer.
Although it prefers cool winters, the apricot tree flowers early and so does not do well if affected by heavy spring frosts. The need for cool winters means that apricot trees thrive in Victoria and other southern regions of Australia.
Apricot trees like well-drained soil and regular deep watering. It is best to plant two- to three-year-old bare-rooted trees from late autumn to early spring. The trees should begin producing fruit in their fourth year.
Apricots are a favourite in home gardens because the tree reaches a maximum height of 7 m and dwarf varieties reach only to about 2 m. Dwarf varieties can be grown in tubs. Like other stone-fruit trees, apricots will need pruning.
Choose apricots that are firm but not hard. Avoid fruit that is overly soft or contains bruises. Choose fruit based on the flavour and aroma rather than the appearance.
How to store and keep apricots
Once apricots are ripe, they should be stored in your fridge. An alternative is to store unripe apricots in your fridge and then remove them and allow them to ripen at room temperature. If possible, allow refrigerated apricots to come to room temperature to improve the favour.
How to use
- Stuff apricots for a savoury kick – halve apricots and stuff with goat’s cheese and serve as a snack.
- Try poached apricots for dessert – combine white wine, sugar, a vanilla bean and water and simmer, then add apricots and a splash of vermouth and serve with mascarpone cheese, custard or thick cream.
- Make an easy apricot entrée – toss halved apricots with olive oil, chopped thyme and seasoning and grill and arrange on rounds of goat’s cheese, then top with rocket leaves and toasted pine nuts and drizzle with oil and vinegar.
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Better Health Channel
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