Although still susceptible to spring frost, many varieties have been especially bred for the southern Ontario climate. These include Harcot, Harglow, Hargrand, Harlayne, Harogem, and Harval from Harrow and Veecot, Velvaglo and Vivagold from Vineland.
An excellent source of beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium. However, while the fruit can be safely cooked intact, the kernels of most North American varieties can be extremely bitter and generally should not be eaten.
A temperamental plant, apricots need a dry climate in which to thrive. They grow wild in the mountains of north-western China and central Asia and have probably been cultivated for at least 5,000 years.
Apricots flourished in ancient Rome and the Moors also established them in Spain. King Henry VIII's gardener imported them to England in the 1500s and grew them in protected walled gardens.
Apricots were probably introduced to North America by the Franciscan brothers in California some 200-300 years ago.
Buying and storing
Bright orange with a rosy or peachy blush usually means ripe fruit with sweetness and flavour. The fruit should be firm and free of soft spots.
While best eaten when freshly picked, ripe apricots can be stored in the refrigerator for some time. Unripe apricots will soften and mellow at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Preparing and cooking
Simply rinse fresh fruit before eating raw.
For main dishes, apricots can be paired with lamb, rice pilaf or bulgur (cracked) wheat, as in middle eastern cooking. They also marry well with ham, chicken or duck, and are particularly suitable in stuffings or glazes.
They are great for cooked desserts, as well. Simmer or poach in a light vanilla or lemon-flavoured syrup, or use as part of a glaze for cakes or tarts.
Apricot wine or apricot brandy will enhance dark chocolate and almonds with additional dried apricots as a simple, colourful and heart warming dessert. They can also be featured in apricot crumble or in jams, as well as being a tasty flavouring for ice cream and sherbet.
- For use in puddings or as fruit: cut in halves and pit. Pack in moderately thin syrup (see syrup pack with ascorbic acid on information sheet).
- For use in pies: cut in quarters and pit. Pack in dry sugar using 3/4 cup (175 mL) sugar to 4 cups (1 L) fruit (see syrup pack with ascorbic acid on information sheet).