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), and have only one seed each, 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.
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 production and packing industry in California have a heavy Armenian presence.
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
Apricot cultivars are most often grafted on plum or peach rootstocks. A cutting of an existing apricot plant provides the fruit characteristics such as flavour, size, etc., but the rootstock provides the growth characteristics of the plant.
Medicinal and non-food uses
Cyanogenic glycosides (found in most stone fruit seeds, bark, and leaves) are found in high concentration in apricot seeds. The drug laetrile, a purported treatment for cancer, is extracted from apricot seeds. As early as AD 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 is used in this context in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and as an inducer of labour, used in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi for this purpose. Dreaming of apricots, in English folklore, is said to be good luck, though the Chinese believe the fruit is a symbol of cowardice.
Other useful herb information: Savory | Skullcap | Pennyroyal | Green Tea | Butterbur | Ephedra | Witch Hazel
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