With its sweet taste, soft skin and bright colour, the apricot is one of the most popular fruits in France. In fact, each household consumes nearly 3.5 kg per year. This is quite an achievement for a fruit that is in season for only three months. In addition to its unique taste, the apricot is full of nutrients that are excellent for the health of the body and which it would be a shame to deprive ourselves of.
Characteristics of the apricot
- Rich in antioxidants ;
- Rich in carotenoids ;
- Rich in fiber ;
- Source of vitamins A and C;
- Low in calories;
- Stimulates intestinal transit.
Nutritional and caloric values of apricots
Eaten fresh, dried or in juice, apricots are rich in fibre, antioxidants and vitamin A. Dried, it is appreciated by athletes for the energy it provides and for its high iron and copper content.
Dried apricots are sweeter?
The amount of sugar in a dried apricot is the same as in a fresh apricot. However, as in any dried fruit, the sugar is more concentrated. The process of dehydrating the fruit reduces its water content, thus concentrating its sugar content, but also its various nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. This makes apricots and other dried fruits a nutritious food.
|Nutrients||Fresh apricot, 3 medium fruits (105 g)||Dried apricots, sulphured, 6 halves (20 g)|
|Protein||0,85 g||0,6 g|
|Carbohydrates||9,5 g||11,8 g|
|Lipids||0,4 g||0,1 g|
|Dietary fibres||1,8 g||1,7 g|
|Glycemic load: Low|
|Antioxidant power : High|
Focus on the micronutrients contained in apricots
Among the nutrients contained in good quantities in apricots, we can mention the following:
- Vitamin A: Fresh and dried apricots are excellent sources of vitamin A;
- Iron: dried apricots are a good source of iron for men and a source for women. fresh apricots are a source of iron for men;
- Copper: dried apricots are a good source of copper. Fresh apricots are a source of copper;
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): dried apricots are a source of vitamin B3 ;
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): dried apricots are a source of vitamin B5;
- Vitamin C: fresh apricots are a source of vitamin C;
- Vitamin K: dried apricots are a source of vitamin K for women;
- Magnesium: dried apricots are a source of magnesium for women;
- Phosphorus: dried apricots are a source of phosphorus;
- Potassium: Fresh and dried apricots are sources of potassium.
The benefits of apricots
Several prospective and epidemiological studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may play a role in these protective effects. However, very few studies have analyzed the specific health effects of apricots.
An excellent source of fibre
Apricots are a source of fibre. In addition to preventing constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer, a high-fiber diet can help prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as control type 2 diabetes and appetite. A ½ cup (125 ml) serving of fresh apricots provides 5% and 8% of the recommended daily fibre intake for men and women aged 19 to 50, respectively. As for dried apricots, a ¼ cup (60 ml) portion meets 8% and 12% of these same intakes.
Apricot, a natural anti-inflammatory?
According to a study, the daily consumption of 3 dried or pickled Japanese apricots (umeboshi type) could reduce the severity of chronic gastritis. Chronic gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining caused by the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Japanese apricot would reduce the inflammatory effects of the H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. A chronic inflammation of the stomach risks, in certain people, to generate a cancer of the stomach. However, further studies are needed to confirm whether eating Japanese apricots can reduce this risk.
Apricots are rich in antioxidants
Apricots contain various antioxidants, particularly phenolic compounds of the flavonoid family. These compounds help neutralize free radicals in the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and various chronic diseases. The antioxidant content of dried apricots is higher than that of fresh apricots. Apricot purees, jams and juices (nectars) contain more or less the same antioxidant compounds, but in smaller quantities than in fresh or dried apricots.
A real wealth of carotenoids
Apricots also contain carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene, a carotenoid that contributes greatly to their orange colour, as well as a small amount of lycopene. In the body, beta-carotene has the ability to convert to vitamin A. In general, the total carotenoid content of apricot peel is 2 to 3 times higher than that of the flesh. Even if, for an equivalent portion, fresh apricots contain half as much beta-carotene as carrots (one of the best sources), they remain a very interesting source. Dried apricots contain slightly less.
A word from the nutritionist
Carotenoids, including beta-carotene, are better absorbed by the body when a small amount of fat is eaten at the same time. It is therefore advisable to eat, for example, dried apricots with a few nuts or apricot juice with a piece of cheese.
How to choose the right apricot?
A ripe apricot weighs on average 45 g with its stone and has a characteristic orange colour, sometimes spotted with red. The apricot is easily recognizable by its downy skin and pulpy flesh with a more or less acidic flavour depending on maturity and variety. However, to get the most out of apricots, it is essential to know how to choose and preserve them.
Apricot identity card
- Family: Rosaceae ;
- Common names: apricot, Armenian plum, Armenian apple;
- Scientific names: Prunus armeniaca (synonym Armeniaca vulgaris), Prunus mume (Japanese apricot);
- Origin : Northeast China ;
- Season: summer ;
- Color: orange ;
- Taste: sweet and slightly acidic.
The colour of the apricot, an indication of maturity
Apricots should be yellow or orange, soft to the touch, fragrant and have smooth skin, signs of ripeness. If necessary, you can ripen apricots by placing them in a paper bag at room temperature for a day or two. Avoid green fruit as it will not ripen.
Eat locally for even more flavour
The best varieties of apricots are rarely found fresh outside their production area. This is because they do not stand up well to the extensive handling required during storage and long-distance transport. Canned or dried fruit is often tastier because it is harvested when fully ripe and comes from tastier varieties. For more flavour, it is therefore recommended to buy fresh apricots grown and harvested in France.
The importance of reading labels
Several apricot-based products, such as jam and juice (nectar), are popular with consumers. In order to reduce the production costs of these products, some food companies sometimes substitute apple or pumpkin puree for a quantity of apricot. Despite the fact that this practice is prohibited, it often goes unnoticed because the taste, texture or colour of the final product is not necessarily changed. Other industrial products made from apricots such as desserts, pastries and jams have a massive addition of sugar and/or fructose syrup which has a negative impact on health. To make the best choices, it is therefore advisable to give preference to fresh apricots and to read the food labels carefully.
How to store apricots
If they are ready to eat at the time of purchase, apricots can be stored for no more than 2 or 3 days at room temperature. In the refrigerator, they can be kept for 1 week in a perforated plastic bag, but this changes their texture and flavour. Take them out some time before eating them. To store them in the freezer, cut them in half along the ridge, remove the pit and place the halves on a plate to freeze. Then place them in plastic bags and return them to the freezer.
How to prepare the apricot?
Thanks to its sweet and sour flavour, the apricot lends itself to a multitude of preparations in the kitchen. Whether eaten plain, added to a dessert or enjoyed in a sweet and savoury version, apricots can be used in a thousand and one ways for our greatest pleasure.
Apricot for dessert
- The apricot can easily be used in many desserts such as sorbets, ice creams and frozen yoghurts, pancakes and soufflés, rice pudding, cakes, clafoutis, charlottes, tarts and muffins. Do not hesitate to marry it with almond, its ideal companion;
- It can also be simply poached in maple syrup or honey, or dipped in melted chocolate;
- Particularly rich in pectin, it can be used to make excellent jams in which grape juice or honey can replace sugar.
An ideal fruit for making dressings, sauces and condiments
- Vinaigrette. Mix apricot juice with vegetable oil, cider vinegar, mustard and, if desired, a little Tabasco sauce;
- Mustard Condiment. Mix ½ cup apricot jam (preferably unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice) with 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Serve with meat or add to a dressing ;
- Chutney sauce. Unripe apricots are particularly suitable for this dish. Puree them with coriander leaves, ginger root, chopped onions, hot pepper and lemon juice.
Apricot and poultry, always a successful combination
- Apricot stuffing. Mix chopped dried apricots, pecans, onions, cooked wild rice and herbs;
- Glaze a bird – or a roast – with apricot jam before cooking. Add garlic, soy sauce, olive oil and rosemary to the jam. Reserve some of the mixture as a side sauce and spread the rest over the meat. Leave to marinate for ½ hour before putting in the oven.
The secret ingredient for surprising soups
- Celery root and apricot soup. Fry diced celeriac with finely chopped onion in olive oil. Add vegetable stock and dried apricots and simmer for 45 minutes. Blend in a blender, season with salt and pepper and serve;
- Indian style soup. Combine apricots with winter squash or pumpkin, spices (ginger, mustard and coriander seeds, turmeric, cinnamon, hot pepper) and basmati rice.
Mix slices of fresh or dried and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms with pieces of dried apricots. Boil green beans, carrots and daikon (or another type of radish) in thin slices for a few minutes. Refresh them under cold water before adding them to the first two ingredients. Serve with a sauce made of tofu, tahini (sesame paste), soy sauce, rice vinegar and mirin (a Japanese cooking wine), blended in a blender. To decorate, add a few strips of lemon peel.
Umeboshi, an original way to rediscover apricots
These salted and dried apricots are sold in cans in health food stores. One of the easiest ways to eat them is to chop them up and stuff them into a rice dumpling that you shape by hand. Dip the dumplings in soy sauce seasoned, if desired, with Japanese horseradish (wasabi). The Japanese believe that umeboshi has many virtues and is a popular dish in macrobiotic cuisine. It does not come from a plum, as is often claimed, but from an apricot of the species Prunus mume. To prepare umeboshi, the apricots are marinated in salt and then dried.
Contraindications and allergies to apricot
Although the apricot is excellent for the health of the body, there are some contraindications to its consumption. Indeed, in some particularly sensitive people, it can cause digestive disorders and the occurrence of allergies. In case of doubt, it is imperative to consult a health professional.
Apricot, a fruit rich in sulphites
Sulphites are one of the 9 most common food allergens. Their consumption can cause very serious reactions in individuals who are allergic to them. Sulphites are naturally occurring compounds in food and in the body, but they are also found in the form of food additives. They are used as preservatives.
Dried apricots and products containing apricots (such as jam) can be a source of sulphites. It is therefore important for people who are allergic to sulphites to read labels carefully to avoid consuming food products that contain sulphites. Even though regulations are strict, undeclared sulphites are occasionally found in certain products, such as apricot-based products. It is therefore important to be doubly vigilant when consuming such products. Sulphite-free dried apricots are now available on the market. They are a good alternative for people who must avoid this food additive.
Oral allergy syndrome
Apricot is a food that has been implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome takes the form of an allergic reaction to certain proteins in a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with environmental pollen allergies and is almost always preceded by hay fever. When some people allergic to birch pollen eat raw apricots (cooking usually degrades the allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction can occur. These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips and throat. After eating or touching the offending food, symptoms may appear and then disappear within minutes. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and consumption of apricots should not be avoided on a routine basis.
However, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of your reactions to plant foods. The allergist will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
History and anecdotes
The term “apricot”, which appeared in the French language in 1512, has followed a long etymological path. It first came from the Latin praecoquum, “early”, in reference to the fact that the apricot tree blooms very early in the season. It later became Castilian (albaricoque), passing through Greek, Arabic and Spanish. Another Greek origin is attributed to it, abros, which means “delicate” in reference to the fragility of the fruit. Finally, the Romans also called it aperitum, which means “fruit that is easily eaten”, because the stone is easily detached from the flesh.
The names Santo Domingo apricot and West Indian apricot refer to fruits belonging to the botanical genus Mammea and not to the genus Prunus. The neologisms “prucot” and “plumot” refer to fruits from hybrids resulting from crosses between plum and apricot.
Contrary to what the Latin name of the species (armeniaca) indicates, the apricot tree does not come from Armenia, but from northeast China. It is said to have been domesticated 4,000 years ago by a Chinese people who selected varieties that were particularly rich in sugar. More than 2,000 years ago, Roman legionnaires introduced it to Greece and Italy. However, it did not arrive in France until the 15th century and its cultivation was not really established until 3 centuries later. Around the same time, Spanish missionaries introduced it to Southern California, where it was quickly adopted.
Today, the largest production of apricots is in the Mediterranean countries (Turkey, Spain, Syria, Greece, France) and in Iran. In America, California and Chile dominate the market. In Canada, they are grown in southern British Columbia and Ontario.
A liqueur called apricotine is made by soaking the fruit in brandy. In addition, an oil is obtained from the kernel. Although edible, it is mainly used in cosmetology.
Although cold tolerant, the apricot tree does not produce much in our latitudes because its very early flowers are sensitive to frost. However, some varieties have been selected to survive the low temperatures of the Canadian prairies (zones 3 and 4). We could therefore try to grow them in Quebec. These varieties are Brookcot, PrairieGold, Strathmore, Sub-Zero, Sunrise and Westcot.
To increase the chances of getting fruit
- Preferably choose an east or north facing location to delay flowering. Protect the plantation from cold winds and avoid planting in places with frost pockets;
- A thick mulch is laid over the entire surface under which the roots run to delay bud burst;
- For the same reason, the trunk is coated with a white paint intended for this purpose;
- Avoid areas where the soil is permanently wet.