Apricots: Golden and Fragrant?>

Apricots: Golden and Fragrant

by Berkeley Wellness

Apricots are golden, fragrant fruits that originated in China about 4,000 years ago and were transplanted throughout Asia and Europe. In the late 1700s, the Spanish introduced apricots to California, where they were planted in the gardens of Spanish missions. Today, California supplies about 3 percent of the world production of apricots. Many of the apricots you find in supermarkets are grown in other countries, notably Turkey, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile.

Apricots: Nutrition

The deep gold to orange color of apricots indicates that they contain carotenoids, notably beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A by the body. Apricots are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. They also contain a small amount of iron, as well as the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin.

About half the US apricot crop is canned and somewhat less nutritious than fresh: Apricots packed in light syrup have double the calories and half the beta-carotene and vitamin C of fresh apricots.

For a full listing of nutrients, see Apricots in the National Nutrient Database.

Types of Apricots

There are about a dozen varieties of apricots that are widely sold. All are similar in taste, but differ somewhat in size and color (which ranges from yellow to deep orange). Blenheim, Perfection, Katy, Tilton, Patterson, and Castlebrite are among the better-known varieties. There are also some interesting apricot hybrids available:Plumcot: A

As for apricot nectar, we suggest you avoid or limit it. Like most nectars, it contains only about 35 percent juice. The rest is basically sugar water—and expensive sugar water at that. Treat canned apricots and nectars like desserts—sweet splurges to enjoy occasionally if at all. Stick mainly to fresh whole apricots.

Dried apricots are a handy snack, but keep in mind that the fruit's vitamin C content is reduced when dried. Also, an apricot’s calorie content (compared with the same weight of fresh fruit) is increased nearly sevenfold once the water is dried out of the fruit. Processors often treat dried apricots with sulfur dioxide to help preserve their rich orange color. The sulfites formed in this process can cause severe allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to them. When sulfites are used, government regulations require that they be listed on the label or package, but it is easy to tell them apart by appearance: unsulfured apricots are brown, not orange.

Dried fruit is sticky, so it tends to adhere to teeth. The American Dental Association advises “if you find yourself eating dried fruits or trail mix often, make sure to rinse with water after and to brush and floss carefully.”

How to Choose the Best Apricots

Fully ripe apricots ship poorly, so unless you live near an apricot-growing region, you may have a difficult time finding ripe ones. (Domestic apricots are available from mid-May through mid-August.) Ripe apricots are soft to the touch. You should eat them as soon as possible, as they will not keep. Apricots

How to Ripen and Store Apricots

If you buy apricots that are not quite ripe, store them in a paper bag at room temperature, away from heat or direct sunlight, for two to three days. This will “ripen” the apricots, which means they will soften but not get sweeter or develop more apricot flavor. Ripe apricots may be stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep a day or two at most. Don’t wash the fruits until you’re ready to eat them.

How to Use Apricots

Rinse apricots under cold running water before using them. Ripe apricots are soft and delicate, so if you need to peel them for a recipe, do so carefully. Place the fruits in boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds, then remove them and cool them under cold water. Use a knife to pull away their skin; it should slip right off. To halve apricots, cut down to the pit around the longitudinal seam and twist the two halves to separate them; discard the pit. Dip peeled or cut-up apricots into diluted lemon juice to keep them from browning.

3 Ways to Serve Apricots

Apricots are an ideal snack, but you can also use them in salsas and sandwiches. Here are three appetizing serving suggestions for apricots. Try sliced fresh apricots in a sandwich where you would ordinarily use tomatoes.For a healthful jam, cook dried apricots with apple juice until very soft and tender, then purée—no