General Information: Apricots are fat free, saturated fat free, very low in sodium, cholesterol free, high in vitamin A, and are a good source of potassium.
Although many factors affect the development of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure, eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of these diseases.
Turkish dried apricots are lighter in color and milder in flavor than other varieties. They're often treated with sulfur to improve their color and shelf life.
Nutritional: Dried apricots are especially rich in carotenes, which are the natural yellow pigments that the body uses to make Vitamin A. According to the American Cancer Society, apricots, and other foods rich in carotenes, may lower the risk of cancers of the larynx, esphagus, and lungs. Apricots also provide potassium, iron, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, and Vitamin C. The copper and cobalt in apricots is beneficial in treating anemia, but should be used cautiously during pregnancy and in cases of diarrhea.
History: Apricots are members of the rose family and closely related to the plum, peach, cherry, and almond. The Greeks wrongly supposed the fruit to have originated in Armenia, and called it the Armenian plum/apple, and hence its botanical name (armeniaca). The Romans were impressed by its early ripening and called it praecocium, meaning precocious. Like peaches and plums, apricots are drupes, that is, a stone fruit that develops from self-pollinating white flowers. The fruits are roundish, yellow-orange in colour, with its length somewhat flattened and having a "seam" that runs around it almost dividing it into halves. The skins are fuzzy and velvety, flushed with pink. The flesh is firm, sweet and fragrant, but contains little juice. Apricots do not ripen after being picked. They only soften, so the flavour never improves if picked green and allowed to sit. The kernel is edible, but care must be taken not to consume more than one or two because of the prussic acid. These kernels are used mainly to flavour jams and are put into the jars whole, and discarded later.
Apricots grew wild for thousands of years in China, where it was first cultivated. While no word for the apricot exists in either Hebrew or Sanskrit, a Chinese character designating it appeared in written form just prior to 2000 BCE. Chinese silk traders introduced the fruit to Persia and Armenia. Alexander the Great is credited with taking the apricot to Southern Europe and introducing it to Greece in the 4th century BCE. Pliny mentions that apricot cultivation began among the Romans about 100 BCE and were prized by them, as well as with the Greeks who called them "golden eggs of the sun". By the 16th century CE, apricots were successfully cultivated in Northern Europe, including a wild variety mentioned growing in Siberia. King Henry VIII's gardener brought the apricot to England from Italy in 1542; but the real growing success was achieved by Lord Anson at Moor Park in Hertfordshire, producing the European favourite called Moor Park.
The Spanish brought the apricot to the New World, first planting it in Mexico, and later, in their California missions. The English attempted to grow apricots in the eastern US, but they did not fare well. Today, apricots are extensively cultivated in California, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Spain, and Russian central Asia. To some extent, they are also grown in Canada. Unfortunately, as with many fruits, those grown in North American have far less flavour than those grown in the Near East, where climate, soil conditions, and chemical-free growing produces a more flavourful fruit. In addition, since apricots do not travel and do not ripen after picking, they are sold green. Consequently the flavor is very disappointing. Since apricots ripen early, they require certain climatic conditions, mainly a fairly cold winter and moderately high temperatures in the spring and early summer. Such conditions are found in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, where the apricot just manages to ripen in their limited amount of sunshine. The main regions of cultivation include a band stretching from Turkey through Iran and the Himalayas to China and Japan; southern Europe and North Africa; South Africa; Australia; and California.