Apricot, botanically known as Prunus Armeniaca is considered as the first fruit of the summers. An apricot is a drupe (fruit that contains a fleshy skin outside and a hard seed inside) and it looks like a peach. Apricot seed is hard like stone hence it is often called ‘stone’. Color of the fruit varies from yellow to orange and sometimes has red tint on the sides. Apricot is a sweet fruit with sometimes tangy flavor and it is widely used in making various apricot dishes. Several apricot recipes are well-liked in global cuisine such as apricot jam, apricot sauce and apricot cake.
History of Apricot
The home for apricots is believed to be China. In fourth century BC, Alexander has bought them to Greece. In Italy, the cultivation of apricot has started after the introduction of fruit by Arabs. It has been the main cultivated crop in Italy for several years. Franciscans are responsible for the introduction of apricot to America in 1800’s. Since then USA is producing a good amount of apricots each year.
Culinary Uses of Apricots
Apricot is a luscious fruit that is fondly used as an ingredient in various sweet and savory recipes. Apricot dishes are either made with fresh apricots or with canned and dried apricots. The main characteristic of apricot is that it never loses its nutrients while cooking; hence it can be used in either form. The skin of the apricot contains lot of nutrients and it is quite healthy to use the fruit with skin. The apricot blends very well in several savory dishes such as lamb and poultry recipes. Apricot sauce and jams are quite famous in international cuisines. Confectionery items and desserts such as cakes, pies and puddings are fondly made with apricot flavor. Apricot juice and preserves are commonly served in various cuisines. Apricot kernel is also widely used as an almond substitute due to its sweet flavor. Liquors are often flavored with apricots and apricot oil is also used as cooing oil. Apart from being a favorite ingredient in several apricot recipes, the fruit is popularly used to extract its nectar that is famous as ‘nectar of gods’.
Popular Apricot Recipes
• Apricot date chutney – It is one of the popular apricot recipes that are served as a condiment in Indian cuisine.
• Chocolate Amaretti apricots – It is a perfect dessert dish made up of apricots.
• Danish pudding – This dessert dish can easily be made with apricots.
• Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Glaze- Pork tenderloin dish tastes good with apricot glaze.
• Fresh apricot soufflé – This is one of the most popular apricot dishes that are fondly served as desserts.
Cuisines Commonly Making Apricot Dishes
Apricots are quite popular in Mediterranean cuisine. Apricot desserts and savory dishes are also very commonly served in Mediterranean cuisine. Italian cuisine is famous for flavoring amaretto liquor with apricots kernels. Italian amaretti biscotto also gets its flavorful taste form the extract obtained from the apricot kernels. Today America produces 90% of world apricots and hence apricot recipes are widely used in American cuisine. Apricot jams, preserves and confectionery items are widely served in the cuisines of USA. Apricot is popularly known as ‘Lokat’ in Indian cuisine and various chutneys and sweet dishes are made with ‘lokat’ as a main ingredient. Chinese cuisine is also not far behind in making apricot dishes as it is the first home of the fruit. Apricot glazed meat dishes and apricot sauces are widely served in Chinese cuisine.
Preferred Methods of Making Apricot Dishes
• Baked – All confectionery apricot dishes are made with this method.
• Glazed – Apricot glazed meat dishes such as pork, lamb and poultry dishes are quite popular in global cuisine.
• Extracted – Apricot nectar and apricot seed oil is extracted from the fruit for varied uses.
• Blanched – To peel off the apricot skin, blanching of fruit is done.
• Blended – Apricot puree is made by blending the apricot in a food processor.
• Canned – Apricots are widely used for canning purposes.
Nutritive Value of Apricots
Apricots in fresh and ripe form are high in dietary fibre and very low in calories. Apricot is also a useful source of beat carotene that acts as an antioxidant and helps in preventing cancer and heart diseases. Juice of apricot is high in vitamin C. Dried apricots are also a compact and convenient source of nutrients. They have rich contents of iron, dietary fiber and potassium. These nutrients make dried apricots a good snack for astronauts during their space flights.
Consumption Criteria of Apricot
Some of the food processing companies treat apricots in sulfur-dioxide before keeping them for drying so that fruit’s natural color can be preserved. This treatment triggers the risk of asthmatic attack in susceptible people. Therefore, apricots are best avoided by people suffering from asthma.
Buying and Storing Apricot
While buying and storing fresh apricots, following points should be kept in mind:
• Fresh looking, firm apricots are always recommended.
• Orange colored apricot without any bruises is an ideal fruit to purchase.
• Green and hard apricots should be avoided as there are very less chances of them getting ripe at home.
• Fresh apricots should be stored in refrigerator and used within 2-3 days as they are highly perishable.
• Leftover apricot dishes should also be stored in refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
Types of Apricot
There are many types of apricots available in the world. Some of them are as follows:
• Chinese apricots – It is an orange color fruit that is most suited for drying as well as canning purposes.
• Gold cot – This variety of apricot grows in early summers and varies from medium to large size.
• Tilton apricot – This fruit is yellow in color and has tender and juicy flesh. It grows in mid-summers.
• Wenatchee – This variety of apricot has yellowish-orange color and sweet taste.
• Goldbar – These apricots are usually reddish-orange in color and have a thick acidic skin.
• Gold Kist – This variety is ideal for canning purposes at home due to its thick texture.
• Tomcot – Tomcot apricot is a yellow-large fruit with juicy flesh inside.
• Apricot kernels contain prussic acid which is poisonous. Seeds should not be consumed until roasted.
• Dried apricots are high in sugar. At least 40% sugar is present in dried apricots.