Apricots are delicious and widely popular fruits that belong to the genus Prunus (stone fruits).
The origin of the apricot is disputed and unsettled. It was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there.
Its scientific name Prunus armeniaca (Armenian plum) derives from that assumption.
Despite the great number of varieties of apricots that are grown in Armenia today (about 50), according to the Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov, its center of origin would be the Chinese region, where the domestication of the apricot would have taken place.
The apricot is now cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.
Apricots are cultivated throughout the temperate regions of the world, especially in the Mediterranean.
The average lifespan of a apricot tree is 15 to 20 years.
The apricot is a small tree, 8–12 m (26–39 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm (16 in) in diameter and a dense, spreading canopy.
The leaves are ovate, 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) wide, with a rounded base, a pointed tip and a finely serrated margin.
The flowers are 2–4.5 cm (0.8–1.8 in) in diameter, with five white to pinkish petals; they are produced singly or in pairs in early spring before the leaves.
The fruit is a drupe similar to a small peach, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) diameter (larger in some modern cultivars), from yellow to orange, often tinged red on the side most exposed to the sun; its surface can be smooth or velvety with very short hairs. The flesh is usually firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart.
The single seed is enclosed in a hard, stony shell, often called a “stone”, with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side.
In a 100-gram (3.5 oz) amount, raw apricots supply 48 Calories and are composed of 11% carbohydrates, 1% protein, less than 1% fat and 86% water.
Apricots have many health benefits such as ability to treat indigestion, constipation, earaches, fevers, skin diseases, cancer and anemia. Furthermore, apricots have the ability to improve heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent the deterioration of vision, help you to lose weight, treat respiratory conditions, boost bone strength, and maintain electrolyte balance in the body. It is also believed that apricot is good for skin care, especially for women. This is why you find it added in various cosmetics.
The impressive health benefits of apricots are due to the content of vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, and niacin in significant amounts, as well as a number of other essential vitamins in trace amounts (less than 5% of daily requirement), as well as their mineral content, which includes potassium, copper manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Apricots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, like most fruits.
Apricots are widely eaten fresh as a dessert fruit.
The fruit is also widely made into jam.
Apricots may also be used in desserts, in juices, and for flavoring.
Dried apricots are a type of traditional dried fruit. Dried apricots have an intense sweet-sour flavour. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, iron and are high in fibre. Dried apricots can be high in sulphur dioxide, which is commonly used in small quantities to prevent mould developing on the fruit. Many organic dried apricots are brown because they are sun-dried: sunlight oxidises their flesh, which acts as a natural preservative.
Nutritionally, apricot seeds are similar to other nuts — they’re rich in healthful fats and provide some fiber and iron. Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they’re sometimes substituted for almonds. The Italian liqueur amaretto, and amaretti biscotti, is flavored with extract of apricot seeds as well as almonds; plus, oil pressed from these cultivars has been used as cooking oil.
Apricot seeds contains a toxic chemical known as amygdalin, which is also referred to as laetrile. Some companies call this compound vitamin B17 in order to label and market the product as an essential substance. In the body, this chemical is converted to cyanide, which is poisonous and can cause serious harm. While your body can detoxify a small amount of cyanide, eating too many apricot seeds or kernels may be hazardous to your health.
During the 17th-century, apricot oil was used to treat tumors, ulcers, and swellings. In 2011, a systematic review deduced that claims that amygdalin and laetrile found in high concentration in apricots have a medicinal benefit to cancer patients were true.
In Europe, apricots were used as an aphrodisiac.
Egyptians usually dry apricots, add sweetener, and then use them to make a drink called amar al-dīn.
In the 17th century, English settlers brought the apricot to the English colonies in the New World. Most of modern American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to the west coast by Spanish missionaries. Almost all U.S. commercial production is in California, with some in Washington and Utah.
The apricot is a member of the rose family and is a close relative of almonds.
Apricot derives from praecocia (praecoquus) as “cooked or ripened beforehand” [in this case meaning early ripening], and from Greek πραικόκιον (praikókion) as “apricot”. The English name first appeared in the 16th century as abrecock from the Middle French aubercot or later abricot, from Catalan a(l)bercoc.
Seeds of the apricot have been discovered during archaelogie excavations of the Garni Temple and Shengavit settlement, having a history of 6,000 years.