Apricot, a delicate stone fruit, belongs to the rosaceae family and thrives in temperate climate zones. It requires hot weather during the growing season, but is very sensitive to frosts, although it can withstand colds up to – 30 in winter. The large spreading trees bear thousands of yellow and yellowish orange fruits that a “small harvesting window” when ripe.
Native to southern China, apricots grow in southeastern Asian countries, North Africa, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Syria, Greece, Argentina, Chile, Iran, Canada, the U. S. A. Pakistan, France, Algeria, Japan, Morocco, and Armenia.
Spanish missionaries brought the apricot tree to California in the 18th century, and where it is still a major agricultural product.
The roughly heart shaped, round or flattened, thin skinned, delicate fruit has a short season and is highly perishable.
If picked fully ripe, apricot is a delightful, soft textured fruit with a perfumed flavour. The kernels are sweet and occasionally used as a substitute for almonds.
The origins of the Latin name prunus armeniaca used by botanists goes back to historians in Alexander the Great’s army who accompanied campaigns in Asia which extended to what is today Pakistan. Reportedly, the historians saw their first apricot trees in Armenia, which then extended to half of the territory of today’s Turkey.
Rich in vitamin A, apricot is a very versatile fruit available fresh, canned in syrup, stoned and dried, made into a paste and rolled into thin sheets (a specialty of Syria) and jams. Pastry chefs use apricots because of its unique colour, texture and size, in flans, fruit salads, pies, tortes, and to coat the base of Sacher torte before glazing with chocolate.
In Hungary Barack Palinka (distilled from a base of apricots) is a national bestseller. There people enjoy apricot brandy (their version may be sweet or completely dry) after dinner or in their coffee.
Austrian pastry chefs discovered that apricot jam is the best insulator of the cake base from the heavy chocolate covering.
Europeans considered apricots aphrodisiac for a long time.
The largest producers of Apricot are: