In Latin, apricot means “precious,” a label earned because it ripens earlier than other summer fruits. Apricots originally came from China.
This golden fruit has been around for more than 4,000 years. Apricots progressively made their way through the Persian Empire to the Mediterranean where they were fondly adopted. Spanish explorers introduced the apricot to the New World, and they were planted in the gardens of Spanish missions all over California. The first recorded major production of apricots in America was in 1792 south of San Francisco.
Today, apricot farmers in California produce more than 95 percent of the apricots grown in the United States.
The apricot’s sweet, tart flavor can tempt taste buds. Go ahead and indulge because this little fruit is nutrient-rich. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists apricots as a healthy source of Vitаmins A and C. Vitаmin A promotes eye and skin health, while Vitаmin C helps boost the immune system. Apricots are also rich in beta-carotene and don’t contain any cholesterol or sodium.
Shopping for fresh fruit can be frustrating. It’s often difficult to remember which fruits should be chosen for firmness and which should be a little soft. Choose an apricot that’s plump and that responds to the slight pressure of your thumb. It should be slightly soft. Look for apricots that are orange-gold in color. If the apricots are pale yellow or tinged with green, they’re not ripe. Avoid any that are wrinkled or severely bruised.
Apricots are akin to peaches. The apricot is just minus the fuzzy skin that a peach has. Both the apricot and the peach are members of the rose fаmily. One apricot tree can produce fruit for as many as 25 years, its fruit picked by hand when firm. In the United States, apricots are grown in California, Indiana and Washington. Fresh U.S. apricots are available from mid May to mid August.
Here are some interesting facts about Apricot:
1. In one ounce apricots contain enough beta carotene to supply 20 percent of your daily vitаmin A requirements.
2. Astronauts ate apricots on the Apollo moon mission.
3. Apricots originally were grown in China over 4000 years ago and were brought to California by the Spanish in the late 18th century.
4. California is also the largest producer of apricots.
5. Over half the apricots grown are canned due to their short season.
6. Three and one half ounces of dried apricots can supply four million grams of beta carotene.
7. Dried apricots are over 40 percent sugar.
8. Try and purchase unsulphured dried apricots.
9. Store ripe apricots in the crisper bin of the refrigerator for one to two days.
10. To ripen apricots, place them in a closed paper bag at room temperature.
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