Apricots belong to the rose family and are among a group called “stone” fruits that also include plums, peaches, and cherries. They are equal in size to plums and are packed with beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Dried apricots are a popular snack and convenient for inclusion in numerous recipes.
The term “nectar of the gods” refers to the apricot and its ties to Greek mythology. The first recorded fruit was harvested in China. Seeds made their way through Armenia and eventually to the state of Virginia in the early 1700s. The east coast was not a hospitable climate, however. Some fifty years later, groves in California began producing a large portion of the sweet fruit we see today.
- The many apricot varieties have differing characteristics. Most recognized names include Tilton, Derby, Katy, Patterson, and Blenheim.
- Canned apricots are sweeter than fresh fruits because they are allowed to fully ripen before picking and processing.
- Dried fruits are available year-round, but may have preservatives. Naturally dried products are available at health food markets.
- Peak U.S. growing season is summer. California provides roughly 90% of the country’s crops. Other producing countries include Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain.
- Apricots are made into a great number of other products: jams and jellies, chutneys, oil, brandy, and juice.
- Most apricots shipped outside of California are not allowed to fully ripen on the tree as they become very tender and bruise easily. Grocery stores carry slightly under ripe fruit in season for this reason. The skin will be firm but should have already reached its ripe coloration.
- Inspect fruits for white spots on the surface, which is an indication of mold.
- Semi-dried fruits (usually in foil packages) do not require rehydration. Add directly to recipes or eat them as a snack.
- Most dried apricots are imported into the U.S. Sun-dried varieties taste best.
- Allow to ripen by placing in a paper bag.