25 May Best in season: Apricots
Eating in season is good for you, good for your wallet and good for the planet! Familiarising yourself with what’s in season is also a subtle and satisfying way of reconnecting with nature, especially if you live in a town or city. Noticing the different produce on offer will give you a greater awareness of nature’s cycles—and an enhanced appreciation of fresh, whole, delicious food.
Apricots are in season from May to September. Apricots are also available during the winter months, but the crops have to travel further (usually from South America!).
What are they?
These delicate fruits are a relative of the peach, nectarine and plum. They are known for being sweet, with a subtle tartness that is more pronounced when the fruit is dried.
Apricots originated in China, but made their way to the Western world in the 18th century. They are suited to warm climates, and there are large crops in some of the sunniest places in the world, including South Africa and California in the US. Growing apricots in the UK is a relatively new phenomenon, but new cultivars means trees are now popping up on several fruit farms.
Reflecting their affinity with the sun, the fruits are typically yellow, orange or golden. They tend to be small with smooth, velvety skin.
Why should I eat them?
Apricots are a versatile fruit, and there are many easy ways to include them in your diet. With regular consumption, you may benefit from some of their health-boosting potential:
Providing vitamin A. As in carrots, the orangey-yellow colour of apricots come a pigment called beta-carotene. This is converted into vitamin A in your body. This important vitamin has a plethora of functions, including maintaining skin integrity, supporting a healthy gut and balancing immune function .
Protecting eyesight. Apricots contain a host of antioxidants and phytonutrients, including a compound called lutein. Studies suggest that lutein protects the retina—the part of the eye that picks up images from the environment—from the damaging effects of blue light . This is important because our collections of computers, smartphones and tablets mean that we are exposed to more blue light than ever.
Keeping you regular. The little apricot contains a good dose of fibre, half of which is soluble fibre. Study after study shows that eating adequate fibre is critical for achieving smooth, regular digestion, and soluble fibre can be particularly helpful in cases of constipation .
What should I look for when buying apricots?
The colour of an apricot isn’t always indicative of its flavour, though it’s best to avoid very pale varieties.
The fruit should be slightly soft, with a little give when squeezed. Fruits that are very firm haven’t been tree-ripened, and thus tend to lack flavour. If they’re not completely ripe, leave apricots in a warm place and they should be ready in a day or two. If already ripe, keep them in the fridge.
When buying dried apricots, try to avoid those that contain sulphites. Naturally dried apricots are brown rather than orange, but still have the same sweet-yet-tart flavour.
How can I prepare them?
As with most fruits, apricots are at their finest when eaten fresh and raw! For a little variety, try the following:
Slice 2 fresh apricots and warm on a gentle heat with a little cinnamon (and butter, if you like). For a naturally sweet, delicious breakfast, serve with your yoghurt of choice and a few flaked almonds.
For an interesting side dish, add some sliced fresh apricot to salad leaves. Top with a handful of pistachio nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Stir fry together some onion, garlic, lamb mince, butternut squash and dried apricots for a Middle Eastern-inspired stew. For added depth of flavour, add a tablespoon of the spice mix ras el-hanout.
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