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Apricots

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

These fragile peach-like fruits, with their perfumed aroma and ultra-sweet flavor, contain impressive amounts of beta-carotene. They are also a fair source of potassium, and supply a good amount of fiber. Fresh apricots are fragile and do not ship well so. But dried apricots, concentrated sources of the same nutrients, are widely available. Apricots, both fresh and dried, contain natural salicylate (an aspirinlike compound), which may cause an allergic response in sensitive people.

Varieties

There are approximately a dozen varieties of apricots: All are similar in taste, but differ somewhat in size and color (which ranges from yellow to deep orange). Blenheim, Tilton, Patterson, and Castlebrite are among the better-known varieties.

Availability

Today, California supplies more than 90% of the domestic crop. Only about 16% of these apricots are sold fresh during a relatively short growing season of about 10 weeks. About half the apricot crop is canned.

Domestic apricots are available from mid-May through mid-August. Imports from Chile and New Zealand appear in markets in December and January.

Shopping

Fully ripe apricots ship poorly, so unless you live near an apricot-growing region, you may have a difficult time finding ripe ones--fruits that are soft to the touch and brimming with juice. If you find apricots that are plump, firm, and orange-gold in color, they'll be ready to eat after about two days of ripening at room temperature Don't buy hard fruits that are tinged with green--they will never develop full flavor.

Even when not fully ripe, apricots should yield to gentle pressure and exude a perfumed fragrance; their skin should be smooth and velvety. Avoid any that have shriveled skin or bruises; however, minor blemishes that do not break the skin will not affect the flavor.

Dried apricots come in a number of different forms. The most common are the bright orange apricot halves; their rich color is the result of the apricots being treated with sulfur dioxide. If you are allergic to sulfites, you can look for unsulfured apricots in health food stores. Because they're untreated, they're brown rather than orange. You may also find small, whole apricots called Turkish apricots. These are a much paler orange and are considerably sweeter than regular apricot halves.

Canned apricots are sold packed in heavy syrup, light syrup, or fruit juice. The sugary syrups add a lot of empty calories, and the fruit is so naturally sweet that it really doesn't need the extra sugar.

Storage

If you buy fresh 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. Once ripe, they may be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, where they will keep a day or two at most. Don't wash the fruits until you're ready to eat them.

Preparation

Rinse fresh 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. Drop the fruits in boiling water leave them for just 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. Dip peeled or cut-up apricots into diluted lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Broiling/grilling: Apricots prepared by this method make a delicious accompaniment to chicken cooked on the grill; they can also be served as a dessert at a barbecue or picnic. Thread whole or halved fresh apricots on skewers, brush with honey, and grill until tender. Or, oven-broil apricot halves, cut-side up, 4" to 5" from the heat. Cooking time: 3 to 5 minutes.

Poaching:/ Place apricots--peeled or unpeeled, whole or halved--in barely simmering fruit juice, cover, and cook until tender. Add whole cloves or a cinnamon stick to the liquid for extra flavor. Once the apricots are poached, the liquid can be cooked down to produce a sauce. Cooking time: 5 to 7 minutes.

Reconstituting dried apricots: Serve dried apricots for breakfast or dessert, at any time of year. Simmer them in a small amount of water, white wine, or fruit juice until tender. Cooking time: 15 minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Fresh Apricots/3 medium

Calories
50
Total fat (g)
0.4
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.2
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
2.5
1
Carbohydrate (g)
12
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
1
Beta-carotene (mg)
1.6

Dried Apricots/1/4 cup

77
Total fat (g)
0.2
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0
Dietary fiber (g)
2.9
1
Carbohydrate (g)
20
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
3
Beta-carotene (mg)
1.4
Potassium (mg)
448


Date Published: 04/19/2005
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