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Apricots

Prunus armeniaca


Description

Sweet and golden apricots are one of those fantastic summer stonefruits. Slightly larger than a plum, they have a soft, velvety skin and a smooth, almost musky-tasting flesh.

Apricot trees fruit best if they get a decent chill over the winter – that’s why in New Zealand they grow best in the South Island, especially Otago.

Apricots are high in vitamins A and C, and are a good source of fibre and potassium.

Choose apricots that are firm, yet slightly soft, and have a sweet fragrance. Leave behind any that have bruises, or are too hard. Hardness indicates they haven’t ripened on the tree for long enough and they won’t have much flavour.

Apricots are best eaten at room temperature within one or two days of purchase, but they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week.

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History

Apricots originate from China, and were first cultivated there at least 4,000 years ago. They were introduced to the Middle East by traders, and are still widely used there today. The Romans enjoyed their apricots as well, and introduced them to Europe.

Uses

Apricots are commonly made into jams and preserves, and like other stonefruit, are good stewed.

It’s easy to stone apricots: they will naturally break along the crease and you can just pop the stone out.

It’s traditional in some places to crack open the stones and include the apricot kernel from inside the stone in a cooked apricot dish, which imparts a subtle bitter almond flavour. If you do this, only use a few kernels as they contain hydrocyanic acid, or hydrogen cyanide. Use four kernels to a large batch of jam, and remove them before serving.

Facts

If you’re lucky enough to have an apricot tree at your place, don’t grow tomatoes or potatoes near it as they’re considered bad companions. However, apricot will do well with alliums, such as onions and garlic.



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