Week 31: Apricots
Apricots are relatives to peaches however they are a bit smaller and not as juicy. They are enjoyed as a fresh fruit but are also enjoyed dried, cooked into pastry, and eaten as jam. The fruits are also distilled
into brandy and liqueur. Essential oil from the pits is sold commercially as bitter almond oil.
Apricots were originally from China. Their appearance in the Spanish missions in California around 1792 marked the fruit’s arrival into the US. They are grown primarily in the US in California due to the suitable sunny climate.
Nutrient Profile: Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of pro-vitamin A carotenoids), and a good source of vitamin C, copper, dietary fiber, and potassium. Apricots contain phytochemicals called carotenoids (lycopene), compounds that give red, orange and yellow colors to fruits and vegetables.
Health Benefits: Protection against free radical damage: Apricots contain a number of potent antioxidants such as conventional antioxidants in vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C and various polyphenols.
Eyesight protection: Apricots are rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that researchers believe may help protect eyesight from age-related damage.
Protection against inflammation: Apricots are a strong dietary source of catechins, a broad family of flavonoid phytonutrients with potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Digestive support: This is one of the many health benefits of fiber which is abundantly present in apricots.
Selection and Storage: Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale and yellow. They are fully ripe (and therefore have the richest amount of antioxidants) when they are soft to the touch. Ripened apricots are delicate and should be handled with care.
Individual Concerns: Dried apricots and sulfites: Commercially grown dried apricots may be treated with sulfites to extend their shelf life. Sulfur-containing compounds are often added to dried foods like apricots as preservatives to help prevent oxidation and bleaching of colors. The sulfites used to help preserve dried apricots can cause adverse reactions in an estimated one out of every 100 people, who turn out to be sulfite sensitive.
Recipe Suggestion: This recipe for warm couscous salad with apricot vinaigrette from Once Upon a Chef was really easy and quick to make. I added dried apricots to the recipe which gave it some additional texture. It is a wonderful side dish for the Grilled Moroccan Chicken featured from the same website.