2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Food and agriculture

Apricot fruit
Apricot fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus
Species: P. armeniaca
Binomial name
Prunus armeniaca

The apricot (Prunus armeniaca, syn. Armeniaca vulgaris, Chinese: 杏子) is a fruit-bearing tree native to China. It is classified with the plum in the subgenus Prunus of the Prunus genus.

It is a small- to medium-sized tree with a dense, spreading canopy 8–12 m tall; its leaves are shaped somewhat like a heart, with pointed tips, and about 8 cm long and 3–4 cm wide. Its flowers are white to pinkish in colour. The fruit appears similar to a peach or nectarine, with a colour ranging from yellow to orange and sometimes a red cast; its surface is smooth and nearly hairless. Apricots are stone fruit ( drupes), so called because the lone seed is often called a "stone".

The name derives from "apricock" and "abrecox", through the French abricot, from the Spanish albaricoque, which was an adaptation of the Arabic al-burquk, itself a rendering of the late Greek πρεκοκκια or πραικοκιον, adapted from the Latin praecox or praecoquus, early, possibly referring to the fruit maturing much earlier in the summer than plums. However, in Argentina and Chile the word for "apricot" is "damasco" which probably indicates that to the Argentines the fruit was associated with Damascus.


The apricot originated in northeastern China near the Russian border, not in Armenia as the scientific name suggests. It did arrive in Armenia after moving through central Asia, which took about 3,000 years. The Romans brought it into Europe through Anatolia about 70 BC. While 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. Turkey provides 85 percent of the world's dried apricot and apricot kernels today (concentrated around the city of Malatya). Most U.S. production is in California with some in Oregon and Utah.

The Apricot is slightly more cold-hardy than the peach, tolerating winter temperatures as cold as −30 °C or lower if healthy. The limiting factor in apricot culture is spring frosts: They tend to flower very early, before the vernal equinox even in northern locations like the Great Lakes region, meaning spring frost often kills the flowers. The trees do need some winter cold (even if minimal) to bear and grow properly and do well in Mediterranean climate locations since spring frosts are less severe here but there is some cool winter weather to allow a proper dormancy. The dry climate of these areas is best for good fruit production. Hybridisation with the closely related Prunus sibirica (Siberian Apricot; hardy to −50°C but with less palatable fruit) offers options for breeding more cold-tolerant plants .

Apricot cultivars are most often grafted on plum or peach rootstocks. A cutting of an existing apricot plant provides the fruit characteristics such as flavor, size, etc., but the rootstock provides the growth characteristics of the plant.

Many apricots are also cultivated in Australia, particularly South Australia where they are commonly grown in the region known as the Riverland and in a small town called 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.

Apricots are also cultivated in Egypt and are among the common fruits well known there. The seasons in which apricot is present in the market in Egypt is very short. There is even an Egyptian proverb that says "Fel meshmesh" (English "in the apricot"} which is used to refer to something that will not happen because the apricot disappears from the market in Egypt so shortly after it has appeared. Egyptians usually dry apricot and sweeten it then use it to make a drink called "amar el deen".

Medicinal and non-food uses

Fresh or dried, apricots are an excellent health and beauty food. Three small fresh apricots contain more than 50% of the recommended daily intake (RDA) of beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant. Beta-carotene prevents the build-up of plaque deposits in the arteries, protects the eyes from sun damage and deactivates free radicals that, if left unchecked, accelerate the ageing process and increase the risk of cancer. In addition, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is vital for good vision and for keeping the eyes lubricated. Those at risk of dry eyes, such as contact-lens wearers, should include plenty of apricots in their diet. Apricots contain significant levels of iron, essential for hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells. Iron deficiency leads to anaemia, pale skin, and thinning, undernourished hair.

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. As early as the year 502, apricot seeds were used to treat tumors, and in the 17th century apricot oil was used in England against tumors and ulcers. Seeds of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they may be substituted for almonds. Oil pressed from these cultivars has been used as cooking oil. Powderized seeds can also be added to pastry dough to give a distinct flavor.

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 labor, as depicted in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. Dreaming of apricots, in English folklore, is said to be good luck, though the Chinese believe the fruit is a symbol of cowardice.

The IUD ( intrauterine device) form of birth control, based on the premise that a foreign obejct within the uterus will prevent the implantation of an embryo, is linked to an old practice of camel herders and drivers who would place an apricot pit within the uterus of their female camels to prevent pregenancy and keep them working at carrying cargo rather than the work of mothering.

Apricot in culture

The Chinese associate the apricot with education and medicine. Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher in 4th century BCE, had told a story that Confucius taught his students in a forum among the wood of apricot.

In the 2nd century, Tung Fung, a medical doctor, lived in Lushan. He asked his cured patients to plant apricots in his backyard instead of paying consultation and medical fees. Those cured of serious illness planted five, and the rest planted one. After some years, a hundred thousand apricot trees were planted and the wood become the symbol for doctors and medicine.

In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion sings, "What puts the ape in the apricot? Courage!"

Among tank-driving soldiers, apricots are taboo, by superstition. Tankers will not eat apricots, allow apricots onto their vehicles, and often will not even say the word "apricot".

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