Apricot

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This article is about the trees and their fruit. For other uses, see Apricot (disambiguation).
Apricot and its cross-section

An apricot is a fruit or the tree that bears the fruit of several species in the genus Prunus (stone fruits). Usually, an apricot tree is from the species P. armeniaca, but the species P. brigantina, P. mandshurica, P. mume, and P. sibirica are closely related, have similar fruit, and are also called apricots.[1]

Description[edit]

Apricot tree in central Cappadocia, Turkey
Blooms of an apricot

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 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 firm and not very juicy. Its taste can range from sweet to tart. The single seed is enclosed in a hard, stony shell, often called a "stone", with a grainy, smooth texture except for three ridges running down one side.[2][3]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

History of cultivation[edit]

Apricots drying on the ground in Cappadocia
Apricots, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 201 kJ (48 kcal)
11 g
Sugars 9 g
Dietary fiber 2 g
0.4 g
1.4 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A equiv.
(12%)
96 μg
(10%)
1094 μg
89 μg
Thiamine (B1)
(3%)
0.03 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
(3%)
0.04 mg
Niacin (B3)
(4%)
0.6 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
(5%)
0.24 mg
Vitamin B6
(4%)
0.054 mg
Folate (B9)
(2%)
9 μg
Vitamin C
(12%)
10 mg
Vitamin E
(6%)
0.89 mg
Vitamin K
(3%)
3.3 μg
Minerals
Calcium
(1%)
13 mg
Iron
(3%)
0.4 mg
Magnesium
(3%)
10 mg
Manganese
(4%)
0.077 mg
Phosphorus
(3%)
23 mg
Potassium
(6%)
259 mg
Sodium
(0%)
1 mg
Zinc
(2%)
0.2 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Apricots, dried
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,009 kJ (241 kcal)
63 g
Sugars 53 g
Dietary fibre 7 g
0.5 g
3.4 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A equiv.
(23%)
180 μg
(20%)
2163 μg
Thiamine (B1)
(1%)
0.015 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
(6%)
0.074 mg
Niacin (B3)
(17%)
2.589 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
(10%)
0.516 mg
Vitamin B6
(11%)
0.143 mg
Folate (B9)
(3%)
10 μg
Vitamin C
(1%)
1 mg
Vitamin E
(29%)
4.33 mg
Vitamin K
(3%)
3.1 μg
Minerals
Calcium
(6%)
55 mg
Iron
(20%)
2.66 mg
Magnesium
(9%)
32 mg
Manganese
(11%)
0.235 mg
Phosphorus
(10%)
71 mg
Potassium
(25%)
1162 mg
Sodium
(1%)
10 mg
Zinc
(3%)
0.29 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

The origin of the apricot is disputed. It was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there.[4] Its scientific name Prunus armeniaca (Armenian plum) derives from that assumption. For example, the Belgian arborist baron de Poerderlé, writing in the 1770s, asserted, "Cet arbre tire son nom de l'Arménie, province d'Asie, d'où il est originaire et d'où il fut porté en Europe ..." ("this tree takes its name from Armenia, province of Asia, where it is native, and whence it was brought to Europe ...").[5] An archaeological excavation at Garni in Armenia found apricot seeds in an Eneolithic-era site.[6] Despite the great number of varieties of apricots that are grown in Armenia today (about 50),[4] according to the Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov its center of origin would be the Chinese region, where the domestication of apricot would have taken place. Other sources say that the apricot was first cultivated in India in about 3000 BC.[7]

Its introduction to Greece is attributed to Alexander the Great;[7] later, the Roman General Lucullus (106–57 BC) also would have imported some trees – the cherry, white heart cherry, and apricot – from Armenia to Rome.[citation needed] Subsequent sources were often confused about the origin of the species. John Claudius Loudon (1838) believed it had a wide native range including Armenia, the Caucasus, the Himalayas, China, and Japan.[8]

Apricots have been cultivated in Persia since antiquity, and dried ones were an important commodity on Persian trade routes. Apricots remain an important fruit in modern-day Iran, where they are known under the common name of zard-ālū (Persian: زردآلو).

Egyptians usually dry apricots, add sweetener, and then use them to make a drink called amar al-dīn.

In the 17th century, English settlers brought the apricot to the English colonies in the New World. Most of modern American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to the west coast by Spanish missionaries. Almost all U.S. commercial production is in California, with some in Washington and Utah.[9]

Apricots are also cultivated in Australia, particularly South Australia, where they are commonly grown in the region known as the Riverland and round the small town of Mypolonga in the Lower Murray region of the state. In states other than South Australia, apricots are still grown, particularly in Tasmania and western Victoria and southwest New South Wales, but they are less common than in South Australia.

Today, apricot cultivation has spread to all parts of the globe with climates that support it.

Cultivation[edit]

Fresh apricots on display
Dried organic apricot, produced in Turkey: The colour is dark because it has not been treated with sulfur dioxide (E220).

Although the apricot is native to a continental climate region with cold winters, it can grow in Mediterranean climates if enough cool winter weather allows a proper dormancy.[citation needed] 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. 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. Hybridisation 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.[10]

Prunus sibirica (Siberian apricot; hardy to −50 °C (−58 °F) but with less palatable fruit) offers options for breeding more cold-tolerant plants.

Apricot cultivars are most often grafted onto plum or peach rootstocks. The scion from an existing apricot plant provides the fruit characteristics, such as flavour and size, but the rootstock provides the growth characteristics of the plant.

Cultivators 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.

Apricots have a chilling requirement of 300 to 900 chilling units. They are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Some of the more popular US cultivars of apricots include 'Blenheim', 'Wenatchee Moorpark', 'Tilton', and 'Perfection'.

An old adage says an apricot tree will not grow far from the mother tree; the implication is that apricots are particular about the soil conditions in which they are grown.[citation needed] They prefer well-drained soils with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Some apricot cultivars are self-compatible and do not require pollinizer trees; others are not: Moongold and Sungold, for example, must be planted in pairs so that they can pollinate each other.

Pests and diseases[edit]

Apricots are susceptible to various diseases whose relative importance is different in the major production regions as a consequence of their climatic differences. For example, hot weather as experienced in California's Central Valley will often cause pit burn, a condition of soft and brown fruit around the pit.[11] 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"[12] 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 will reveal a canker surrounding a pruning wound.[13] Other fungal diseases are black knot, Alternaria spot and fruit rot, and powdery mildew.[14] 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.[12]

Kernels[edit]

Main article: Apricot kernel

Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet, they may be substituted for almonds.[citation needed] The Italian liqueur amaretto and amaretti biscotti are flavoured with extract of apricot kernels rather than almonds.[citation needed] Oil pressed from these cultivar kernels, and known as oil of almond, has been used as cooking oil.

On average, bitter apricot kernels contain about 5% amygdalin and sweet kernels about 0.9% amygdalin.[15] 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.

Dried apricots[edit]

Main article: Dried apricot

Dried apricots are a type of traditional dried fruit. When treated with sulfur dioxide (E220), the color is vivid orange. Organic fruit not treated with sulfur vapor is darker in color and has a coarser texture. The world's largest producer of dried apricots is Turkey.[16]

Medicinal and nonfood uses[edit]

Cyanogenic glycosides (found in most stone fruit seeds, bark, and leaves) are found in high concentration in apricot seeds. Laetrile, a purported alternative treatment for cancer, is extracted from apricot seeds. Apricot seeds were used against tumors as early as AD 502. In England during the 17th century, apricot oil was also used against tumors, swellings, and ulcers.[17]

A 2011 systematic review of amygdalin from the Cochrane Collaboration found:

The claims that laetrile or amygdalin have beneficial effects for cancer patients are not currently supported by sound clinical data. There is a considerable risk of serious adverse effects from cyanide poisoning after laetrile or amygdalin, especially after oral ingestion. The risk–benefit balance of laetrile or amygdalin as a treatment for cancer is therefore unambiguously negative.[18][needs update]

In Europe, apricots were long considered an aphrodisiac, and were used in this context in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and as an inducer of childbirth, as depicted in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi.

Etymology[edit]

The scientific name armeniaca was first used by Gaspard Bauhin in his Pinax Theatri Botanici (page 442), referring to the species as Mala armeniaca "Armenian apple". It is sometimes stated that this came from Pliny the Elder, but it was not used by Pliny. Linnaeus took up Bauhin's epithet in the first edition of his Species Plantarum in 1753.[19]

The name apricot is probably derived from a tree mentioned as praecocia by Pliny. Pliny says "We give the name of apples (mala) ... to peaches (persica) and pomegranates (granata) ..."[20] Later in the same section he states "The Asiatic peach ripens at the end of autumn, though an early variety (praecocia) ripens in summer – these were discovered within the last thirty years ...".

The classical authors connected Greek armeniaca with Latin praecocia:[21] Pedanius Dioscorides' " ... Ἀρμενιακὰ, Ῥωμαιστὶ δὲ βρεκόκκια"[22] and Martial's "Armeniaca, et praecocia latine dicuntur".[23] Putting together the Armeniaca and the Mala obtains the well-known epithet, but there is no evidence the ancients did it; Armeniaca alone meant the apricot. Nonetheless, the 12th century Andalusian agronomist Ibn al-'Awwam refers to the species in the title of chapter 40 of his Kitab al-Filaha (The Book of Agriculture) as والتفاح الارمني, "apple from Armenia", stating that it is the same as المشمش or البرقوق ("al-mishmish" or "al-barqūq").

Accordingly, the American Heritage Dictionary under apricot derives praecocia from praecoquus, "cooked or ripened beforehand" [in this case meaning early ripening], becoming Greek πραικόκιον praikókion "apricot" and Arabic البرقوق al-barqūq, a term that has been used for a variety of different members of the genus Prunus (it currently refers primarily to the plum in most varieties of Arabic, but some writers use it as a catchall term for Prunus fruit).

The English name comes from earlier "abrecock" in turn from the Middle French abricot, from Catalan abercoc.[24] Both the Catalan and the Spanish albaricoque were adaptations of the Arabic, dating from the Moorish rule of Spain.

However, in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, the word for "apricot" is damasco, which could indicate that, to the Spanish settlers of Argentina, the fruit was associated with Damascus in Syria.[25] The word damasco is also the word for "apricot" in Portuguese (both European and Brazilian, though in Portugal the word alperce is also used).

In culture[edit]

An Armenian stamp featuring the apricot

The Chinese associate the apricot with education and medicine. For instance, the classical word (literally: "apricot altar") which means "educational circle", is still widely used in written language. Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher in the fourth century BCE, told a story that Confucius taught his students in a forum surrounded by the wood of apricot trees.[26] 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.[27] 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 very short has given rise to the very 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.

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".

Production trends[edit]

According to FAOSTAT, the top producers of apricots (in tonnes) in 2013 were as follows:[28]

The global distribution of apricot output in 2012
Rank Country Production
(tonnes)
1  Turkey 811,609
2  Iran 457,308
3  Uzbekistan 430,000
4  Algeria 319,784
5  Italy 198,290
6  Pakistan 177,630
7  Ukraine 135,000
8  France 133,646
9  Spain 131,800
10  Japan 123,700

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bortiri, E.; Oh, S.-H.; Jiang, J.; Baggett, S.; Granger, A.; Weeks, C.; Buckingham, M.; Potter, D.; Parfitt, D.E. (2001). "Phylogeny and systematics of Prunus (Rosaceae) as determined by sequence analysis of ITS and the chloroplast trnL-trnF spacer DNA". Systematic Botany. 26 (4): 797–807. JSTOR 3093861. 
  2. ^ Flora of China: Armeniaca vulgaris
  3. ^ Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  4. ^ a b "VII Symposium on Apricot Culture and Decline". Actahort.org. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  5. ^ De Poerderlé, M. le Baron (1788). Manuel de l'Arboriste et du Forestier Belgiques: Seconde Édition: Tome Premier. Brussels: Emmanuel Flon. p. 682. 
  6. ^ Arakelyan, B. (1968) "Excavations at Garni, 1949–50", p. 29 in Contributions to the Archaeology of Armenia. Henry Field (ed.). Cambridge.
  7. ^ a b Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Vol. 1, pp. 203–205. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  8. ^ Loudon, J.C. (1838). Arboretum Et Fruticetum Britannicum. Vol. II. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans. pp. 681–684.  The genus is given as Armeniaca.
  9. ^ Agricultural Marketing Resource Center: Apricots
  10. ^ "Prunus sibirica Siberian Apricot PFAF Plant Database". pfaf.org. 
  11. ^ Ingels, Chuck, et. al. (2007). The Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. p. 27. ISBN 1879906724. 
  12. ^ a b Hessayon, D.G. (2004). The Fruit Expert. London: Expert Books. 
  13. ^ Munkvold, Gary P. (2001). "Eutypa Dieback of Grapevine and Apricot". Plant Health Progress. doi:10.1094/PHP-2001-0219-01-DG. 
  14. ^ Diseases of Apricot. The American Phytopathological Society
  15. ^ Yildirim, Fatma Akinci & Askin, M. Atilla. "Variability of amygdalin content in seeds of sweet and bitter apricot cultivars in Turkey". African Journal of Biotechnology. 9 (39): 6522–6524. doi:10.5897/AJB10.884 (inactive 2016-06-06). 
  16. ^ Smith, Andrew F. (ed.) (2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195307962. p. 22.
  17. ^ Lewis, WH and Elvin-Lewis, MPF (2003). Medical botany: plants affecting human health. Hoboken, New Jersey; John Wiley & Sons. p. 214.
  18. ^ Milazzo, Stefania; Ernst, Edzard; Lejeune, Stephane; Boehm, Katja; Horneber, Markus (2011). Milazzo, Stefania, ed. "Laetrile treatment for cancer". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11): CD005476. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005476.pub3. PMID 22071824. 
  19. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1753). Species Plantarum 1:474.
  20. ^ N.H. Book XV Chapter XI, Rackham translation from the Loeb edition.
  21. ^ Holland, Philemon (1601). "The XV. Booke of the Historie of Nature, Written by Plinius Secundus: Chap. XIII". James Eason at penelope.uchicago.edu. pp. Note 31 by Eason relates some scholarship of Jean Hardouin making the connection.  Holland's chapter enumeration varies from Pliny's.
  22. ^ De Materia Medica Book I Chapter 165.
  23. ^ Epigram XIII Line 46.
  24. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary under Apricot.
  25. ^ "DICTIONARY > english–latin american spanish" (PDF). 
  26. ^ "《莊子·漁父》". Ctext.org. Retrieved 2012-06-22. 
  27. ^ Guo, Zhaojiang (1995). "Chinese Confucian culture and the medical ethical tradition". Journal of medical ethics. 21 (4): 239–246. doi:10.1136/jme.21.4.239. PMC 1376720Freely accessible. PMID 7473645. 
  28. ^ "Production of Apricot by countries". United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization. 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2016-04-14. 

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of apricot at Wiktionary