Apricots are petite, round to slightly oblong fruits with smooth and velvety skin. The skin often has a rosy blush, and can range in color from pale yellow, to golden, to a burnt orange, depending on the variety and how ripe they are. The flesh is smooth, juicy, tender, and sweet, with just a bit of tartness at the end. The flavor is often described as being somewhere between a peach and a plum. Apricots are classified as stone fruits or drupes, characterized by their thin skin, pulpy middle, and single, hard, central shell enclosing a pit or stone.
Apricots are available in the late spring through summer.
Apricots are members of the rose family, closely related to the plum, peach, cherry and almond. Their full botanically name, Prunus armeniaca, is a reference to Armenia, where the ancient Greeks believed the apricot came from. There are many different varieties of apricots bred for different traits, from early, mid to late ripening, to superior flavor, to coloring, and even the ability to withstand long-term shipping. Popular apricot cultivars include Blenheim, Sungold, Autum Royal, Moorpark, and Royal Rosa. The apricot is also a parent fruit for successful hybrids, such as the apricot-plum crossing called a pluot, aprium, or plumcot. Most New World apricots are actually of European or Western origin, while central Asian or Eastern apricots are still relatively new to the US and other North American growers. This may be due to the fact that Eastern apricots typically required colder winters, but also because they are less plump than Western varieties, making them visually less appealing, and yet Eastern varieties are often considered to be the most delicious in flavor and texture.
Apricots are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, iron and beta-carotenes. At one time or another, apricots have been acclaimed to treat cancer, tumors, swelling, ulcers, heart disease, and more. Historically, they have played a significant role in Chinese medicine where they are thought to regenerate and detoxify the body.
Apricots can be used in both raw and cooked applications, and in every type of dish from appetizer to dessert. They can be roasted, grilled, baked, broiled, poached, cooked into jams and preserves, made into ice cream or gelato, or pureed for use in sauce or dressings. They are often found preserved by canning or drying because the fresh fruits are so highly perishable, and they are even utilized to flavor liqueurs like apricot brandy. Apricots pair well with other stone fruit, including cherries, almonds and plums, as well as with hazelnut, pistachio, vanilla bean, honey, egg custards, soft cheeses, lemon zest, orange zest, white chocolate, and light, sweet white wines. Their skin is edible, thin, and tender, and it can help the fruit hold its shape in cooking and baking. However, if you prefer to peel them, you can blanch apricots in boiling water for about 20 seconds, submerge in ice water, allow them to cool, and you’ll easily be able to peel off the skin. Even the seed or kernel of a few Eastern apricot varieties is sweet, similar in flavor and appearance to an almond, and full of protein and fiber. However, it is important to note that these kernels MAY BE TOXIC until roasted. Apricots also make a good substitute for peaches, although depending on how sweet your apricots are, you may consider adding sugar to the recipe to make up the difference. Store Apricots on the counter at room temperature until ripe and soft to the touch. Apricots should be eaten once ripe, or they can then be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a couple days. When storing, be careful not to stack or pile them as they bruise easily. For longer storage, you can blanch, slice, remove the pit, and freeze Apricots for up to 3 months.