Season for Apricots May - August
Apricot are like peach's little cousin, but their luscious, flavorful juiciness is often undiscovered for those who have only been privy to store-bought specimens. The apricot is a stone fruit that comes in a wide range of colors and sizes, though they are generally smaller than peaches with smooth skins and a pit that easily separates from the flesh. From the hundred different varieties worldwide, the most commonly encountered in the US are Blenheim and Royal Blenheim, Earlicot, Patterson and Golden Sweet. Whatever apricot you eat, make sure it's been tree ripened!
How to Buy and Store Apricots
The apricots found in most supermarkets pale in comparison (in fact, they're generally incomparable) to a freshly-picked, tree-ripened apricot. Because they are such a fragile, perishable fruit, they are often harvested immaturely and never reach deliciousness. If you're lucky, you have a backyard or neighborhood apricot tree at your disposal that you can spend summer months perusing. Otherwise, get your apricots from farm stands or farmer's markets. Look for fruits that have a strong fragrance, a deep color and are soft to the touch. Ripe apricots can be stored wrapped for up to two days in the refrigerator, but they taste best at room temperature.
How to Cook Apricots
Savoring a juicy apricot on a warm summer day probably places this stone fruit at its best. But, they also make a terrific addition into a range of recipes, from desserts and salads to savory dishes. Don't worry about peeling apricots, for their skin is delicious and nutritious. The flesh will oxidize and turn brown when you cut it though, so do so just before eating. To pit, simply cut the fruit along its natural crease, circling the pit, and twist the halves gently in opposing directions while pulling apart. Fresh apricots can be added to salads or cereal or even pancake batter. Dried apricots are often combined with lamb, chicken or rice in Arab and Mediterranean cuisine.
Give our Gorgonzola Bruschetta Recipe a try, using apricots for a wonderful contrast to the saltiness of gorgonzola cheese.
Health Benefits of Apricots
A ripe, vibrant apricot is brimming with nutriotional valor. Beta-carotene - which gives apricots their lively color - not only keeps eyesight strong but it helps protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which may help prevent heart disease. So, apricots are vital in protecting both the heart and the eyes. What's more - apricots are a good source of fiber, which has a wealth of benefits including preventing constipation and digestive conditions such as diverticulosis.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Apricots
Commercial-grown apricots are often coated with a petroleum-derived wax imbued with fungicide to prolong their shelf life. What's worse? The chemicals penetrate the whole of the fruit, making it impossible to wash them off. Make sure you purchase apricots that have been organically grown, leaving harmful chemicals by the wayside. Also, commercially-grown dried apricots tend to be treated with sulfur dioxide gas during processing and sulfites to extend their shelf life. To minimize your exposure to both - in addition to growing pesticides - purchase your dried apricots organic too!