|Apricot and its cross-section|
|Subgenus:||Prunus subg. Prunus|
|Section:||Prunus sect. Armeniaca|
Apricot first appeared in English in the 16th century as abrecock from the Middle French aubercot or later abricot, from Spanish albaricoque and Catalan a(l)bercoc, in turn from Arabic الْبَرْقُوق (al-barqūq, "the plums"), from Byzantine Greek βερικοκκίᾱ (berikokkíā, "apricot tree"), derived from late Greek πραικόκιον (praikókion, "apricot") from Latin [persica ("peach")] praecocia (praecoquus, "early ripening").
Apricots are species belonging to Prunus sect. Armeniaca. The taxonomic position of P. brigantina is disputed. It is grouped with plum species according to chloroplast DNA sequences, but more closely related to apricot species according to nuclear DNA sequences.
- Prunus armeniaca – common apricot, widely cultivated for its edible fruit and kernel
- Prunus brigantina – Briançon apricot, native to Europe, cultivated for its edible fruit and oil-producing kernel
- Prunus cathayana – native to Hebei
- Prunus × dasycarpa – purple apricot, cultivated in Central Asia and adjacent areas for its edible fruit
- Prunus hongpingensis – Hongping apricot, native to Shennongjia, cultivated for its edible fruit
- Prunus hypotrichodes – native to Chongqing
- Prunus limeixing – cultivated in northern China for its edible fruit
- Prunus mandshurica – Manchurian apricot, native to Northeast Asia, cultivated for its kernel, the fruits of some cultivars edible
- Prunus mume – Japanese apricot, native to southern China, widely cultivated for its beautiful blossom and edible fruit
- Prunus sibirica – Siberian apricot, native to Siberia, Mongolia, northern China, and Korea, cultivated for its kernel
- Prunus zhengheensis – Zhenghe apricot, native to Fujian
The apricot is a small tree, 8–12 m (26–39 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm (16 in) in diameter and a dense, spreading canopy. The leaves are ovate, 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in) long, and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) wide, with a rounded base, a pointed tip, and a finely serrated margin. The flowers are 2–4.5 cm (0.8–1.8 in) in diameter, with five white to pinkish petals; they are produced singly or in pairs in early spring before the leaves. The fruit is a drupe (stonefruit) similar to a small peach, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1.0 in) diameter (larger in some modern cultivars), from yellow to orange, often tinged red on the side most exposed to the sun; its surface can be smooth (botanically described as: glabrous) or velvety with very short hairs (botanically: pubescent). The flesh is usually succulent, but dry in some species such as P. sibirica. Its taste can range from sweet to tart. The single seed or "kernel" is enclosed in a hard shell, often called a "stone", with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side.
Cultivation and uses
Origin and domestication
The most commonly cultivated apricot P. armeniaca was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it was previously thought to have originated there, hence the epithet of its scientific name. However, this is not supported by genetic studies, which instead confirm the hypothesis proposed by Nikolai Vavilov that domestication of P. armeniaca occurred in Central Asia and China. The domesticated apricot then diffused south to South Asia, west to West Asia (including Armenia), Europe and North Africa, and east to Japan.
Japanese apricot P. mume is another widely cultivated apricot species, usually for ornamental uses. Despite the common name, it originated from China, and was introduced to Japan in ancient times.
Apricots have a chilling requirement of 300 to 900 chilling units. A dry climate is good for fruit maturation. The tree is slightly more cold-hardy than the peach, tolerating winter temperatures as cold as −30 °C (−22 °F) or lower if healthy. They are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. A limiting factor in apricot culture is spring frosts: They tend to flower very early (in early March in western Europe), meaning spring frost can kill the flowers. Furthermore, the trees are sensitive to temperature changes during the winter season. In China, winters can be very cold, but temperatures tend to be more stable than in Europe and especially North America, where large temperature swings can occur in winter. Hybridization with the closely related Prunus sibirica (Siberian apricot; hardy to −50 °C (−58 °F) but with less palatable fruit) offers options for breeding more cold-tolerant plants. They prefer well-drained soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Apricot cultivars are usually grafted onto plum or peach rootstocks. The cultivar scion provides the fruit characteristics, such as flavor and size, but the rootstock provides the growth characteristics of the plant. Some of the more popular US apricot cultivars are 'Blenheim', 'Wenatchee Moorpark', 'Tilton', and 'Perfection'. Some apricot cultivars are self-compatible, so do not require pollinizer trees; others are not: 'Moongold' and 'Sungold', for example, must be planted in pairs so they can pollinate each other.
Hybridisors have created what is known as a "black apricot" or "purple apricot", (Prunus dasycarpa), a hybrid of an apricot and the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera). Other apricot–plum hybrids are variously called plumcots, apriplums, pluots, or apriums.
Pests and diseases
|Apricot production – 2020|
(millions of tonnes)
|Source: FAOSTAT, United Nations|
Apricots are susceptible to various diseases whose relative importance differs in the major production regions as a consequence of their climatic differences. For example, hot weather as experienced in California's Central Valley often causes pit burn, a condition of soft and brown fruit around the pit. Bacterial diseases include bacterial spot and crown gall. Fungal diseases include brown rot caused by Monilinia fructicola: infection of the blossom by rainfall leads to "blossom wilt" whereby the blossoms and young shoots turn brown and die; the twigs die back in a severe attack; brown rot of the fruit is due to Monilinia infection later in the season. Dieback of branches in the summer is attributed to the fungus Eutypa lata, where examination of the base of the dead branch reveals a canker surrounding a pruning wound. Other fungal diseases are black knot, Alternaria spot and fruit rot, and powdery mildew. Unlike peaches, apricots are not affected by leaf curl, and bacterial canker (causing sunken patches in the bark, which then spread and kill the affected branch or tree) and silver leaf are not serious threats, which means that pruning in late winter is considered safe.
Due to their natural amygdalin content culinary uses for the kernel are limited. Oil made from apricot kernels is safe for human consumption without treatment because amygdalin is not oil soluble. Ground up shells are used in cosmetics as an exfoliant. As an exfoliant it provides an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic microbeads.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,009 kJ (241 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||7 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||201 kJ (48 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
In a 100-gram amount, raw apricots supply 48 Calories and are composed of 11% carbohydrates, 1% protein, less than 1% fat, and 86% water (table). Raw apricots are a moderate source of vitamin A and vitamin C (12% of the Daily Value each).
Dried apricots are a type of traditional dried fruit. The world's largest producer of dried apricots is Turkey. When treated with sulfur dioxide (E220), the color is vivid orange. Organic fruit not treated with sulfur dioxide is darker in color and has a coarser texture. When apricots are dried, the relative concentration of nutrients is increased, with vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, and iron having Daily Values above 25% (table).
Apricots contain various phytochemicals, such as provitamin A beta-carotene and polyphenols, including catechins and chlorogenic acid. Taste and aroma compounds include sucrose, glucose, organic acids, terpenes, aldehydes and lactones.
Apricot kernels (seeds) contain amygdalin, a poisonous compound. On average, bitter apricot kernels contain about 5% amygdalin and sweet kernels about 0.9% amygdalin. These values correspond to 0.3% and 0.05% of cyanide. Since a typical apricot kernel weighs 600 mg, bitter and sweet varieties contain, respectively, 1.8 and 0.3 mg of cyanide.
The Chinese associate the apricot with education and medicine. For instance, the classical word 杏 壇 (literally: "apricot altar") (xìng tán 杏坛) which means "educational circle", is still widely used in written language. Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher in the fourth century BC, told a story that Confucius taught his students in a forum surrounded by the wood of apricot trees. The association with medicine in turn comes from the common use of apricot kernels as a component in traditional Chinese medicine, and from the story of Dong Feng (董奉), a physician during the Three Kingdoms period, who required no payment from his patients except that they plant apricot trees in his orchard upon recovering from their illnesses, resulting in a large grove of apricot trees and a steady supply of medicinal ingredients. The term "expert of the apricot grove" (杏林高手) is still used as a poetic reference to physicians.
The fact that apricot season is short has given rise to the common Egyptian Arabic and Palestinian Arabic expression filmishmish ("in apricot [season]") or bukra filmishmish ("tomorrow in apricot [season]"), generally uttered as a riposte to an unlikely prediction, or as a rash promise to fulfill a request.
In Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, apricots are used to make Qamar al-Din (lit. "Moon of the Religion"), a thick apricot drink that is a popular fixture at Iftar during Ramadan. Qamar al-Din is believed to originate in Damascus, Syria, where the variety of apricots most suitable for the drink was first grown.
The Turkish idiom bundan iyisi Şam'da kayısı (literally, "the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus") means "it doesn't get any better than this".
In the US Marines it is considered exceptionally bad luck to eat or possess apricots, especially near tanks. This superstition has been documented since at least the Vietnam War and is often cited as originating in World War II. Even calling them by their name is considered unlucky, so they are instead called "cots", "Forbidden fruit" or "A-fruit".
Dried apricot, with dark color due to absence of sulfur dioxide treatment
Prunus sibirica (Siberian apricot; hardy to −50 °C (−58 °F) but with less palatable fruit)
Apricot tree, Turkey
Apricots drying on the ground in Cappadocia
Packaging apricot fruits in Uzbekistan
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The apricot, being the Armenian national fruit...
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