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Apricot
 
Apricot or 'Prunus Armeniaca' is a species of Prunus, which belongs to the family of the plum. An Apricot tree is a small bush, which grows to a height of about 8-12 m, with the trunk of a diameter of 40 cm. A flowering tree, it bears white to pinkish flowers. The fruit very much resembles a peach, a very small peach though. A regular fruit often ranges in size from 1.5-2.5 cm in diameter, with colour ranging from yellow to orange. It is often tinged red on the side due to exposure to the sun and have a pubescent surface. The pulp of the fruit has a stone like single seed at the center, having a grainy smooth texture, and has three ridges running down one side.
 

Apricots are believed to be originally from China. The fruit was introduced in Europe via America, and therefore, the scientific name Prunus armenaica. Many varieties of apricots are available in the market, with more than 20 distinguished ones. Some varieties include:

  • Moorpark: This variety is of english origin, and is often large and round with an orange-red colour
  • Newcastle: Is a variety from california, which is medium sized and orange-yellow in colour
  • Royal: Is of French origin, with a large oblate, yellow-red fruit.
Though the fruit is best had when fresh, it tastes equally good when dried. The market is flooded with organic dried, packed, canned or pulped apricots all round the year. Large quantities of the fruit are pulped for jam making. Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, Greece, U.S.A. and France are the leading producers of apricots.
 

Uses of Apricots
Apricots can be had as a fresh fruit or in salads. They can also be consumed in dry form, used in a pastry, eaten as a jam, or distilled into brandy and liqueur. The oil extracted from the seeds of the fruit is sold as bitter almond oil (essential oil). Sliced apricots in hot or cold cereal make for an ideal breakfast. Try adding chopped apricots in the pancake batter; the pancakes taste much better this way. To lend a middle eastern flavour to chicken or vegetable stews, add some dried diced apricots.

Apricots not only have culinary uses, but are also extensively used by the cosmetic industry. Apricot is an essential ingredient for many massage cream, as it has the property of making the skin soft and supple. It also acts as a complexion enhancer. Also a variety of apricot face scrubs can be found in plenty in the market.

 

Apricot Nutritional Facts

  • Low fat
  • Saturated fat-free
  • Sodium-free
  • Cholesterol-free
  • High in Vitamin A
  • High in Vitamin C
  • A good source of potassium.
 

How to Pick and Store?
Apricot is a delicious fruit, which has a honey like flavour. To choose the best apricots from a lot, it is advisable to pick the ones, which are rich orange in colour and avoid the pale and yellow ones. The ideal apricot needs to be a little soft in texture; if an apricot is hard or too firm, it is an indication that it has not been tree ripened. One can ripen the fruit by placing it in a closed paper bag and leave it at room temperature.

Apricots are highly perishable, so they can't be stored for long. We can place ripe apricots in the crisper bin of the refrigerator and keep them fresh for a day or two.

Health Benefits
As mentioned earlier, apricots are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Following are the health benefits associated with consuming Apricots:

  • The nutrients present in apricots can help prevent a number of diseases related to the heart and the eyes.
  • A rich source of fiber, apricots also provide disease fighting capability to the human body
  • Apricots contain ample amounts of the carotenoid, lycopene, also found in green tea, which is an ideal nutrient to help prevent the development of prostate cancer in human beings
  • Apricots contain nutrients such as vitamin A that are beneficial for the eyes. Vitamin A is also an antioxidant, which plays an important part in repairing free radical damage done to cells and tissues
  • Regular consumption of the fruit helps in combating constipation and other digestive conditions such as diverticulosis
  • Apricot seeds were used to treat tumors as early as AD 502.

Cultural Significance

  • The Chinese associate the apricot fruit with education and medicine
  • The fruit also finds a mention in the The Wizard of Oz, when the Cowardly Lion sings, "What puts the ape in the apricot? Courage!"
  • Among American tank-driving soldiers, apricots are taboo, by superstition
  • Dreaming of apricots, in English folklore, is said to bring good luck
  • The Turkish idiom "bundan iyisi Şam'da kayısı" (literally, the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus) means "it doesn't get any better than this" and used when something is the very best it can be; like a delicious apricot from Damascus.