Apricots: Although originating from China, apricots have long been cultivated for the Persian diet. It wasn’t until the 17th century that apricots were introduced to the western world in countries that traditionally experienced moderate winters and hot summers – it is only in the last century that apricot cultivation has ventured as far as our shores.
Apricots are one of the world’s healthiest fruits. Loaded with a wide range of nutrient goodness from beta-carotene to fibre, flavonoids and carotenoids. And if that wasn’t enough healthiness for you, apricots are also a rich source of antioxidants such as vitamins A, B3 and C. The miracle-working kernel is rich in iron, potassium, phosphorus and amygdalin. They’ve been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat a range of ailments – arthritis, cancer, high blood pressure, respiratory problems and indigestion.
Falling a little later, making use of all the important summer sun to ensure the fruit reaches full maturity, the British apricot season is typically short and sweet from June to September. Vibrant orange in colour, and blushing with a hint of red when ripened, an apricot’s flesh softens beautifully through the cooking process, and develops in flavour, enhancing both sweet and savoury dishes.
As they are not overly juicy and release very little liquid during cooking, apricots are perfect for baking, especially for adding to pies and tarts, whilst avoiding the ominous ‘soggy bottom’!
Seasonal period: June to September
Flavour friends: Apricots a both sweet and sour flavour with a slightly creamy undertone. With floral characteristics as well as tropical fruit notes, apricots are great in both heavily-spiced sweet and savoury dishes.
Persian spices such as cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger are fantastic flavour enhancers which commonly additionally paired with richer meats such as lamb and pork.
Fresh fruity flavours such as orange, mango and peach are great at encouraging floral characteristics making these combinations great in desserts along with vanilla, soft cheese and creamy nuts such as almonds.
Buying, storing and preparing: Avoid very pale varieties and those that appear wrinkly and with blemished skin. They should feel relatively firm although with a little give.
Store at room temperature to allow to ripen. Once ripened, apricots are best preserved in the fridge.
Run a knife round the parameter of the fruit, using the stone inside as a guide. Twist the two sides of the apricot to open the fruit and reveal the kernel – simply remove and discard the kernel.
Cooking: As they are not overly juicy and release very little liquid during cooking, apricots are perfect for baking, especially for adding to pies and tarts, whilst avoiding the ominous ‘soggy bottom’!
Can also be gently poached or made into jam or chutney.
Words by Helen Upshall