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The earliest signs of the wild apricot date back 4000 years to the mountain chains of North-Eastern China. It then crossed India and followed the Silk Road before being introduced into Greece and Italy. The apricot reached France in the 15thcentury. But, suspected of causing fever, it was left to one side.
It really started to be cultivated in the 17th century when the gardener to King Louis XIV decided to plant apricot trees at Versailles. Today, France is the second biggest apricot producer in Europe. Orchards can be found in the South of France, where 3 regions are particularly active: The Rhône Valley, the Gard and the Roussillon, whose “Red Roussillon apricots” have been honoured with their own Protected Designation of Origin (AOP, in French) since 2016.
What is the season for fresh apricots?
Although we tend to associate apricots with high summer, some varieties are earlier than others. The Wondercot, for example, starts in mid-May!
The height of the season comes in July, with varieties such as the Orangé de Provence (known for its sharp flavour) or the Rouge du Roussillon (the variety of choice for jam-making). The season comes to an end in September with Farclo, an apricot variety recognisable by its sweet flesh.
How do you select a good apricot?
Trust your sense of touch. The skin should be smooth and not downy. The fruit should be neither too hard nor too soft. Do not judge a fruit’s ripeness by its colour, since that depends on the variety.
How should you store them?
The apricot is a delicate fruit; it needs to be eaten within 10 days of picking. If you want to eat it fresh, keep it in the open air at about 20-22 °C. Do not pile apricots one on top of another, and eat them within three days of buying. Ideally, you should avoid refrigerating them, which can affect their flavour.
Apricots freeze very well, if you want to have them available all year. Consider removing the stone first.
You can also dry them, preserve them, or make a traditional apricot jam to bring a bit of sunshine to your breakfast table.
Why should you eat apricots?
The apricot is one of the richest fruits in minerals and trace elements (potassium, iron and copper). It is also an excellent source of fibre.
The apricot in all its guises!
While there are several different ways of preserving apricots, there are just as many ways of eating them: raw or cooked, fresh or dried, sweet or savoury… the possibilities are endless. It is prized by the pastry chef. Its name has even become a French verb – abricoter (to “apricot”) – meaning: to brush with apricot jam to make a dessert shiny and appealing.
Does your mouth water at the sight of an apricot tart or clafoutis? Or how about a Springtime Tabbouleh with slivered almonds, mint and dried apricots? Or, for the more hardcore foodie, a roasted camembert with dried apricots, pistachios, honey and thyme?
The apricot offers a range of original alternatives to standard dishes. It brings “pep” and freshness to the table. So, do you fancy giving it a try?
Take a quick look at our chefs’ recipes:
Apricot and passionfruit pâte de fruits - Jean-Philippe Darcis
Breton “tarte sablé” with apricots - Sebastien Bouillet
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