Appreciating Apricots

Apricots (Prunus armeniaca), are fruits of the genus Prunus, which includes plums, peachescherries,  nectarines, and almonds. They all belong to the Rosaceae family, along with strawberries, blackberriesraspberries, quinces, apples, pears, and ornamental trees and shrubs (such as roses, meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns).

Apricot cultivation began in China over 4,000 years ago.

An archaeological excavation of a temple at Garni in Armenia found 3,000-year-old apricot seeds in a Copper Age site.

Apricots have been cultivated in Persia since antiquity, and dried ones were an important commodity on Persian trade routes.

Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) is credited with naming apricots “Armenian Plums” and with introducing them to Greece.

The Roman General Lucullus (106–57 BC) imported some trees cherry, white heart cherry, and apricot trees from Armenia to Rome.

The Umayyad Arabs who conquered Spain between 711 and 719 AD brought apricots to southern Spain, where they remain a significant crop to this day.

The Ottoman Turks spread apricots throughout their domain in the 13th century, including into Hungary.

Apricot trees were planted in Virginia in 1720.  Spanish missionaries introduced apricots to California in the 18th century, and in 1792 the first major California crop was produced.

Apricot seedlings were planted in the Luxembourg Gardens and introduced to the public around 1815 under the name Royal. About 20 years later, the daughter of the head gardener at Blenheim Palace in England, a man named Shipley, planted a seed said to be from the Royal. The tree thrived and its fruit was called Shipley’s Blenheim. Both varieties made it to California by the 1880’s and entered the commercial nursery trade.

During World War 1, when shipments of dried fruit from Europe came to a halt, demand for apricot trees in California spiked. By 1920, the California apricot was flourishing in the Santa Clara Valley. Eventually California apricot farms found their way to the San Joaquin Valley after World War II and the ensuing growth of the computer industry in the Santa Clara Valley.

Today, apricot cultivation has spread to all parts of the globe with climates that support it. Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, Greece, the United States, and France are the leading producers of apricots. While there is some commercial production of apricots in Washington and Utah, over 95% of the apricots in the U.S. are grown by over 300 growers on 17,000 acres in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Many apricots are also cultivated in Australia, particularly South Australia, where they are commonly grown in the region known as the Riverland and in a small town called Mypolonga in the Lower Murray region of the state. Apricots are also grown in Tasmania, western Victoria, and southwest New South Wales, but they are less common than in South Australia. Apricots remain an important fruit in modern-day Iran, where they are known under the common name of zard-ālū. Egyptians usually dry apricots, add sweetener, and then use them to make a drink called amar al-dīn.

Apricots can:

  1. Improve eye health. Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), which is essential for good eyesight. The vitamin C in apricots helps produce collagen, which supports strong corneas. The macula luteas in your retinas selectively absorb zea-xanthin, an important carotenoid in apricots, where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions, and may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults. Rutin in apricots treats cataracts and glaucoma.
  2. Promote healthy tissues. The vitamin A in apricots maintains healthy mucus membranes and skin. The vitamin C in apricots helps produce collagen, which supports strong bones, muscles, blood vessels, gums, mucous membranes,  joints, and other supporting cells and tissues, and helps you absorb iron and calciumPotassium in apricots regulates muscle contraction, stores carbohydrates for muscles to use as fuel, promotes regular muscle growth, and maintains the density and strength of bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss. The boron in apricots builds strong bones and prevents osteoarthritis. Rutin in apricots helps your body use vitamin C and maintain collagen. Hesperidin in apricots works together with vitamin C to maintain the health of collagen and connective tissues, which prevents sagging and wrinkling of your skin.
  3. Fight cancer. Eating natural fruits rich in vitamin A can prevent lung and oral cavity cancers. The vitamin C in apricots helps prevent cancer by neutralizing volatile oxygen free radical molecules and preventing damage to your DNA that can lead to cancer, by destabilizing a tumor’s ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions, and by processing toxins for elimination. The boron in apricots prevents prostate cancer. Tannic acid in apricots is a powerful antimutagenic, antitoxic, and astringent that may prevent cancer. Salicylic acid in apricots helps to potentially reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Catechins in apricots can prevent tumor blood vessel growth.
  4. Fight free radicals. Vitamin C helps to protect cholesterol from becoming oxidized by free radicals. Because oxidized cholesterol is the kind that builds up in your arteries and causes damage to blood vessels, vitamin C can help prevent atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. In addition, vitamin C can help neutralize free radicals that can cause asthma, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, so vitamin C may be able to prevent or alleviate those conditions. In fact, vitamin C consumption is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Apricots are also a good source of flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants such as lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zea-xanthin in significant amounts. These compounds help act as scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Tannic acid and catechins in apricots are also potent antioxidants. The antioxidants in apricots are particularly effective in neutralizing a particularly destructive oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical, and they also help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats, such as the fats that make up a large portion of your brain cells or neurons, the cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in your bloodstream, and the fats that make up your cell membranes.
  5. Promote cardiovascular health.  Apricots contain significant amounts of both insoluble and soluble fiber, but are especially high in soluble fiber, which promotes and helps maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Potassium in apricots regulates heart rythym and lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance. Coumarin in apricots may prevent arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) and high blood pressure, and protect the capillaries from damage. Salicylic acid in apricots helps prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots. Catechins in apricots protect against the development of atherosclerotic plaque buildups in arteries. Rutin in apricots helps reduce weakness in blood vessels and the resultant hemorrhages, improves circulatory problems, including varicose veins and poor circulation, reduces serum cholesterol and oxidized LDL cholesterol, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Hesperidin in apricots strengthens your blood vessels and and helps prevent hemorrhoids, bruising, and varicose veins.
  6. Fight anemia and infections. Apricots increase absorption of iron into your body, likely due to their vitamin C content. In addition, your body needs vitamin C to make healthy tissue and have a strong immune system. Getting a little extra vitamin C around cold and flu season is a good idea, and may also be helpful for people who suffer from recurrent ear infections. Tannic acid in apricots is a powerful antibacterial that can prevent diarrhea. Coumarin in apricots may act as an anti-inflammatory and an antisceptic, fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and treat asthma.
  7. Improve digestive health. Certain nutrients in apricots, including fiber, sorbitol, and isatin, can help regulate the functioning of your digestive system and relieve constipation.
  8. Reduce pain and inflammation. Coumarin in apricots may act as an analgesic (a substance that relieves pain). Salicylic acid in apricots helps to reduce pain and inflammation. Rutin in apricots minimizes pain, bleeding, and bruising from injury, treats hay fever, oral herpes, and cirrhosis, and can be useful in treating rheumatic diseases such as gout, arthritis, edema, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel disease. Hesperidin in apricots may also have anti-inflammatory effects, may also treat some autoimmune diseases, and may also alleviate hay fever and other similar allergies.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh, Raw Apricots 

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin A

1925 IU

39%

vitamin C

10 mg

17%

fiber

2 g

8%

potassium

259 mg

7%

carbohydrates

11.2 g

4%

vitamin K

3.3 µg

4%

vitamin E

0.9 mg

4%

copper

0.1 mg

4%

manganese

0.1 mg

4%

protein

1.4 g

3%

niacin

0.6 mg

3%

vitamin B6

0.1 mg

3%

magnesium

10 mg

2.5%

Calories

48

2.4%

riboflavin

0.04 mg

2.35%

phosphorus

23 mg

2.3%

folate

9 µg

2.25%

iron

0.4 mg

2.22%

pantothenic acid

0.2 mg

2%

thiamine

0.03 mg

2%

calcium

13 mg

1%

fat

0.4 g

1%

zinc

0.2 mg

1%

sodium

1 mg

0.04%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

boron

2.11 mg

carotene-ß

1094 µg

crypto-xanthin-ß

104 µg

lutein-zeaxanthin

89 µg

Apricot season in the U.S. runs from May through August. In the winter, apricots are imported from South America. Choose plump apricots that look fresh and have a healthy blush to them, with no brown markings, broken or dented skin. Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale or yellow. Also avoid any with a greenish tinge, as they are unlikely to ripen once bought. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened fruit. They are fully ripe when they are slightly soft to the touch and juicy. If they are too firm they have not been tree-ripened, and tree-ripened fruits always taste best. A hard apricot can be ripened by placing it in a paper bag for one to two days at room temperature. Storing apricots in the refrigerator will keep them from over-ripening. Consume fresh, ripe apricots within two days of purchase.

To cut apricots in half, slice them through the center around the stone, and gently pull them apart and remove the stone.

To freeze apricots, place halves on a baking sheet until frozen. You can then put them in a freezer-safe container.

Apricots pair well with black ricebrown rice, couscous, onions, wheat, non-dairy ice cream, salads, nuts, caramel, raisins, garlicbasil, nutmeg, tarragon, cumin, curry, and chocolate.

Here are some ideas for using apricots:

  • Add apricots to cereal, soy yogurt, or smoothies
  • Serve apricots can on top of waffles or pancakes
  • Incorporate frozen apricots into sorbets
  • Use pureed apricots as a fat substitute in baked desserts
  • Eat apricots as a snack
  • Add apricots to fruit or vegetable salads with peach, pear, tomatolettuce, seedless grapesstrawberries, pineapples, currants, apples, etc.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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