Apricots are a fruit in the stone fruit category with a sweet, tart flavor and soft, velvety skin. Their color is typically pale yellow to orange, and they're about the size of a plum. Ripe apricots are mainly eaten raw, but can also be used in cooking, and are often dried.
What Is An Apricot?
Apricots are fruits from the botanical family Prunus, which also includes peaches, cherries, plums and nectarines, as well as almonds. They're round to slightly oblong, and measure 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Apricots (Prunus armeniaca) feature various cultivars, and their color can range from yellow to deep orange, often with red or rosy touches. Their flavor is sweet to slightly tart, with soft, juicy flesh that surrounds a hard stone at the center.
Since the ripe fruit are highly perishable, the majority of ripe apricot crops are dried, with often less than one-fourth of the harvest coming to the market fresh. Harvest season for apricots in the United States is from June to mid-August depending on variety and location, but dried apricots are available year-round.
Most fresh apricots sold to a market are picked when not quite mature and still firm to reduce shipping damage. While they will ripen in color, texture, and juiciness after being picked, the flavor and sweetness will remain at the same level as when they were picked.
Like peaches, apricots are also often sold in cans. Surprisingly, commercially canned apricots often have a much fuller flavor than fresh apricots from the market. This is because the apricots are left on the tree longer to ripen and naturally develop more flavor.
How to Use Apricots
Fresh apricots are eaten as snacks while they're in season, and they're also a popular fruit for canning and making jams and preserves, again because of their perishable nature. Other uses include roasting, grilling and broiling, they can be served with pork and poultry, and used for making sauces and salad dressings. Cakes, pastries, tarts, cookies, scones, quick breads and other desserts made using apricots are popular, as well as chutneys, salads, pilafs, and cocktails. Dried apricots can be eaten out of hand as well as chopped and used in recipes, sometimes after reconstituting them by soaking in hot water.
What Do They Taste Like?
Apricots have a sweet flavor with a tart finish. They're often described as tasting like a cross between a peach and a plum. Their flavor is a bit heavier and deeper and less floral than that of peaches, which is why they're able to stand up in cooked dishes alongside foods like pork, turkey and chicken.
A 100-gram serving of fresh apricots (around 2 to 3 apricots, depending on size) provides 48 calories, 11 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, around 1 gram of protein, and less than 1 gram of fat.
Here are a few recipes that feature fresh apricots. You can also substitute apricots for other fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums in many recipes.
Where To Buy Apricots
Fresh apricots are available at supermarket produce departments and farmers' markets from late spring through late summer Most fresh apricots are picked when still firm to reduce shipping damage. When selecting fresh apricots, look for fruits with no touch of green whatsoever. The flesh should yield to gentle pressure when held in the palm of your hand, and the fruit should have a bright, ripe aroma. Avoid ones that are bruised, soft, or mushy.
Unripe apricots will continue to ripen if left at room temperature in a paper bag, away from sunlight. Check the ripening progress often as they will quickly deteriorate. Once ripened, store for no more than a few days in the refrigerator. To freeze apricots, slice them in half and remove the pit, then store in airtight baggies in the freezer for up to three months. Apricots may also be packed in sugar or syrup for freezing and frozen up to 1 year.
Dried apricots should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last up to 6 months.
What's the Difference Between a Peach and an Apricot?
One species of fruits that are sometimes compared with apricots are peaches. Peaches and apricots are from the same botanical family, Prunus, and while apricots are classified as Prunus armeniaca, peaches are termed Prunus persica. Both fruits are harvested during the late spring and summer, both have golden yellow to orange colored skin with patches of red or rose, both have fuzzy skin, and both are technically drupes, or stone-fruits, owing to the hard stone at the center that holds the seed or kernel.
The most obvious difference between the two is that peaches are larger than apricots, sometimes twice as big, and when ripe, they are quite a bit juicier. Conversely, apricots have a much tarter flavor than peaches, which are sweet and floral. From a culinary standpoint, the biggest difference between the two is their water content. Peaches are juicier than apricots, so while it's possible to substitute one for the other in many recipes, doing so might alter the consistency of the dish.
Apricots, raw. FoodData Central, U.S Department of Agriculture