Cooking with Apricots

The Apricot or Prunus armeniaca is considered by many to be native to Armenia despite it being used by a lot of different cultures in a lot of other countries. Apricots are small fleshy fruits which have an orange skin with a pink or red hue, containing large amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and fiber.
The apricots sweet flavor is developed during its growth and the following tips should help you pick the right kind of apricots for your recipes.
Apricots that look dull and feel soft and mushy should be avoided because they are most likely overripe and will have a sour taste. On the other hand, apricots which are pale or greenish yellow in color mean the fruit is not yet ripe enough for use. Ripe apricots have a golden-orange color with some pinkish red hues and the skin should break with application to gentle pressure.
The sweet flavor and the soft texture of apricots allow them to be used in a large variety of foods ranging from cobblers and pies to meats and poultry too. Apricots find use in a number of culinary projects because of their adaptability to various food types, for example:
Preserves: One of the most popular uses of apricots involves boiling them and storing them as preserves which can be used in a whole bunch of meals like sandwiches, desserts and salads.
Cakes: Apricots can be added to cakes either in the batter or as a topping, adding a nice fruity flavor.
Sauces: Apricot flavored sauces can add that extra dash of sweetness to desserts.
Finding fresh apricots is a treat in itself since most packaged apricots are usually dried and sealed before export. Apricots have a rather short shelf life, so purchasing them at the right time is important to enjoying the full benefits they have to offer. The optimal season starts in June and goes up to mid – August.
Most apricots are sold after being picked just before their maturity. This is done so because unripe apricots are firm enough to endure transportation. However, this means that the end product reaching the consumer is not of the best quality because even though the apricots will change color and texture according to their ripening, the sweetness will still be like that of an unripe apricot.
A word of warning to consumers: Apricot kernels can be toxic until they are roasted and must be discarded. However, picking and using fresh apricots is a great way to add a new fruity flavor to all your recipes along with a very healthy dose of nutrition.

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