Healthy and Tasty Fruit

Apricots grow in the apricot tree, whose height ranges from 8–12 m (26–39 ft), having trunk  of up to 40 cm in diameter. Apricot fruit is a drupe and its similarities to the peach is evident. In fact, the ripe apricot with its hues varying from golden yellow to orange looks similar to a small peach. The unripe apricot is green in colour.

Its size usually varies between 1.5 -2.5 cm in diameter and its taste can vary from sweet to tart. Apricot can be consumed in both fresh and dried forms. The fruit has a single ‘stone’ within its fleshy interiors and within the stony shell is enclosed a single seed. Treating the commercially grown dried apricots with sulfur dioxide gas during processing stage is fairly common.  When treated with sulfur dioxide, the colour of apricots turn to deep orange. However, the organic apricots, which are not treated with sulfur vapour , are darker in hues.

 

Origin and Production

The origins of apricot are wrapped in enigma, though it is widely believed that these fruits originated in China, some 3000 years ago. Apricots are believed to have arrived in the western world  first in Armenia, and from there their usage spread to the rest of the European continent. The scientific name of this fruit is Prunus armeniaca (Armenian plum), which perhaps derives from  this assumption. The use of apricots in ancient Greece (since the times of Alexander the Great) , and in the ancient Persia is also evident. Apricots are believed to have arrived in India during the 2nd century AD and in the US during the 18th century. In India, apricots are commercially cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. To some extent, apricots are commercially cultivated in north-eastern states too. The Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir grows most apricots in the country.

Though the cultivation of apricots is mostly across the continental climate region with cold winters, they can grow in Mediterranean region too, if there is enough cool winter. Dry climate is conducive to the maturation of apricots. These delectable fruits can be grown in altitudes varying between 900-3000 m above mean sea level. The ideal Ph for the soils conducive for the growing of apricots ranges between 6 to 6.8. Deep fertile and well-drained loamy soils are suitable for apricot cultivation. In India, apricots are usually grown from mid hills to high hills. Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Algeria are among the major producers of apricot in the world.  

 

Application of Apricots

Apricots have extensive application in the food & beverage industry, especially in the bakery industry. Apricot cake, apricot jam and apricot cookies are well-known applications of apricot. Besides using it on bread, apricot jam can have usage as glaze on pastries.

Chocolate ice-cream with apricot sauce can be a delicacy worth savouring. Apricot and white chocolate tiramisu can be a delectable dessert, if prepared well. These delicious fruits can add to the taste and as well as the nutrient quotient of milkshake. Apricot juice is a refreshing delicacy.

Apricot pies and apricot pasta salad can bring more taste to the table. In green salad also the addition of fresh apricots can make a sweet difference. The chicken and vegetable stews can be endowed with Middle-Eastern culinary character with the addition of  dried and diced apricots. Apricots are also used to prepare brandy and liqueur.

 

Myriad Health Benefits

Apricots are endowed with several health benefits. Naturally ripened apricots  are spruced with healthy dose of antioxidants, which are required by the body to facilitate its  natural functioning. The healthy dosage of antioxidants in apricots is helpful in reducing the threat of cancer. Apricots have significant amount of the antioxidant called lycopene, which is  known to impede the growth of cancerous cells and neutralise the harmful free radicals. It deserves a mention that the impressive presence of antioxidants in apricots not only helps in preventing cancer but also contributes greatly towards maintaining skin health.

This panacea like fruit is a good source of both vitamin A(due to high levels of beta-carotene content) and vitamin C. Vitamin A not only promotes good vision but prevents free radical damage to cells and tissues. The intake of vitamin A is useful for the growth of the cells in the body. And intake of the right quantity of vitamin C, according to an expert, could help in  protecting against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.

Apricots are rich in polyphenolic antioxidants like flavonoids too, and a diet which has the right dosage of flavonoids can reduce the possibility of heart disease.  Apricots are also rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls. According to researchers, these nutrients could facilitate in protecting eyesight from aging-related deterioration. Having two or three servings of apricots per day can facilitate preventing age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder, which is one of the important reasons behind vision impairment among the geriatric population. Thus consuming apricots daily can be beneficial to one’s ophthalmic health in the long-term.

Moreover, dried apricots are a wonderful source of dietary fibre, which is helpful in safeguarding from gastro-intestinal disorders. As a result of their high fibre to volume ratio, dried apricots are also used to get relief from the troubles of constipation.The high amount of soluble fibres in apricots can also keep the threat of heart disease away.

The high fibre content in apricots can facilitate in reducing the LDL or bad cholesterol and in contributing towards enhancement of the HDL or good cholesterol levels in the body. The lowering of LDL can in turn check the threat of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the high fibre content  in this magic fruit can improve the digestive and excretory systems which in turn  contributes towards improving the rate of metabolism. Thus apricots can help one to stay slim and trim. The fact that apricots have low amounts of calories also contributes to the fact its healthy intake would not let one put on unnecessary weight.

Apricots are also rich in potassium, and a healthy dosage of potassium in the human body is needed to maintain the blood pressure level stable.  Thus apricots facilitate in controlling blood pressure. Potassium deficiency can increase the possibility of developing hypertension, which is a common lifestyle disease of our urban lives. Moreover, severe hypertension can introduce the possibility of heart attacks too.

What is more, apricots are rich in copper and low on calories.

 Further, the rich iron content in apricots can help in preventing the sneaking of anaemia into one’s body system. Consumption of apricots can also help in prevention against inflammation. A single apricot is endowed with 4-5 gm of catechin, and this phytonutrient has great potential in checking inflammation.

 

The Indian Story

With the health conscious wave gaining momentum in urban India, the Indian food service industry should make use of apricots more proactively to address its growing numbers of health conscious diners, and also make efforts to create awareness about the myriad health benefits of apricots among the people, so that their demand increases in the Indian society.

Presently, India’s love affair with apricots can at best be described at a nascent stage, which requires full blooming in the years to come. India’s annual apricot production in 2012 was less than 20,000 tonnes, which was dismal. The situation has not improved drastically, over these five years. The time has also come when the production of apricots in India and as well as their transition from farm to fork in the Indian breakfast tables become more significant statistic than they are now.  For this more financial encouragement to the cultivators of apricots across the country is the need of  the hour.

 

 

 

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