An apricot is a small sweet fruit with a golden orange color. A ripe apricot can be recognized by its fairly firm skin, and it will be plump and juicy when it is at its best. The apricot has a delicate aroma and is an excellent source of Vitamins A (beta-carotene) and C. Apricots are also a good source of iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium.
The apricot originally came from China. Cuttings from the apricot made their way from the Persian Empire to the Mediterranean. Credit can be given to the Spanish explorers for the introduction of the apricot to the New World; the fruit flourished in the gardens of Spanish missions in California. The first major production of apricots was recorded in 1792 in an area of San Francisco.
Today, over 400 growers in 21,000 acres of orchards in northern California produce apricots. Almost 95% of the apricots grown in the United States come from California. There are a wide variety of apricots grown in California, each with their own specific characteristics. Growers are continually experimenting to produce new varieties that have sweet, juicy flavors and that process and ship well.
The apricot harvest usually begins in mid-May and lasts for around two months. The ripe fruit can be kept longer if refrigerated. The ideal way to ripen very firm apricots is to keep them at room temperature or to place them in a paper bag with a banana or an apple.
There are many different types of apricot. The Poppy, Castlebrite and Ambercot are medium sized fruits with varying skin tones and flavors. The Tomcot, Tilton and Katy are larger apricots, again with different skin tones and flavors. There are many more types of apricot, with flavors ranging from sweet to tart.
Apricots can be sliced or halved and frozen in syrup. They are also great for making brandy or wine. They are delicious eaten whole and fresh, and the good news is they are low in sodium, calories and fat, so there is no need to feel guilty no matter how many you eat.