Apricot is considered as a very delicious and an important fruit of the world. It is a member of the family “Rosaceae” and sub-family is “Prunoidea”. Its genus is “Prunus L” and sub-genus is “Prunophora”. Botanical name of this fruit tree is Prunus armeniaca and most of the apricots which are cultivated belong to this species. Some other closely related apricot species are P. brigantiaca vill., P. ansu Komar., P. mume Sieb., P. sibirica L., P. mandshurica and P. dasycarpa Ehrh. Apricots can be used in desserts, or in savory dishes. But one the most important thing about apricots is that the oil from apricot has a variety of admirable health benefits which is extracted from their pits, also called “kernels”. It is commonly thought to be drought tolerant because it can survive in the area with low humidity in the atmosphere. But it is badly affected by the low soil moisture conditions. Apricot is a very enviable and attractive fruit of the world but is highly limited to the areas of its adaptation for the purpose of cultivation. Chilling requirement is about, approximately from 700 to 1000 hours at or below 45oF for regular flowering and good fruit set in most of the apricot species. But there are more than a few varieties that require less hours of chilling.
Apricot tree is deciduous and is 3-10 m in height. Leaves are 5-9 cm in length, 4–8 cm wide and have a curved base & a sharp tip. Fruit is rich in sugar content and has a sweet kernel which is edible with some bitterness. Fruit flesh is yellow in color and covers the stone which has a seed or “Kernel” inside. This kernel is used for the purpose of oil extraction. It blooms during the months of March and April before the emergence of leaves.
Origin and History
The apricot is believed to have originated in China, where it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. It has also been grown in India and Tibet from time immemorial. The Hunzas, who live in the Himalayas in northern Pakistan and are known for their vitality and longevity, have cultivated and valued this fruit for its health-building virtues for over 1,500 years. It was regarded as a food medicine by Greek physicians, while the Romans dedicated it to Venus, the goddess of love. It was introduced in Europe during the time of Alexander, the Great. In the Middle East, apricots were very popular for their taste as well as for their invigorating perfume.
The center of diversity of the apricot is northeastern China near the Russian border (in the Great Wall area). From there, it spread west throughout Central Asia. Cultivation in China dates back 3,000 years. The Romans introduced apricots to Europe in 70-60 BC through Greece and Italy. Apricots probably moved to the United States through English settlers on the East Coast, and Spanish Missionaries in California. For much of their history of cultivation, apricots were grown from seedlings and few improved cultivars existed until the 19th century. Cultivars vary among countries, and in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, a great deal of the production is from seedling orchards. Cultivation in the United States was confined to frost-free sites along the Pacific slope of California, due to early bloom but relatively high chilling requirement, and fungal disease problems in humid climates. Now, most of the production in California is in the San Joaquin valley.
Through centuries, as humans moved from Central Asia into Karakoram and Himalayan valleys, they brought apricots with them to the region where apricot trees were commonly grown from seed. As a traditional selection process, the fruit is evaluated as soon as a tree started fruit bearing and the inferior quality fruit trees are budded to good local cultivars. However, a seedling tree bearing good quality fruit would not be budded and is often given a name.
With the passage of time, apricot got very well adapted and became abundant all over the arid inner mountain valleys at elevations from about 1,200 meters to 2,900 meters. Among these extremely high, precipitous mountains characterized with very small river valleys, there were several former mini-kingdoms, completely isolated from each other as well as from the outside world until very recently. For them, apricot was a main staple food, providing fresh fruit throughout summer, dried fruit and edible kernels for winter, oil from bitter seeds for lamps, and firewood in this relatively treeless land.
In Indo-Pakistan, apricots were probably introduced from Iran and Afghanistan (Gina). In Pakistan, apricot is being grown in the uplands of Baluchistan province, Parachinar, Hangu, Chitral, Swat, Hazara and Diamer districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Potohar and Murree Hills in Punjab, northern Kashmir and Gilgit, Chilas and Baltistan.
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L) is a member of the Rosaceae family along with apple, pear, peach and other stone fruits. The apricot is found in the Prunophora subgenus within Prunus along with plums. Hybrids between plums and apricots have been produced recently, which are said to be finer fruits than either parent. A ‘Plumcot’ is 50 percent plum, 50 percent apricot; an ‘Aprium’ is 75 percent apricot, 25 percent plum; and the most popular hybrid, the ‘Pluot’ is 75 percent plum and 25 percent apricot.
The apricot is one of the most important fruits. It belongs to the sub-acid class. It is somewhat cid in its raw state, but its acidity decreases and the sugar content increases in the process of ripening. The fruit is regarded as a nutritious and tonic food and enjoys worldwide popularity. The apricot is a stone fruit and has nut within it. It is round or oblong in shape, flattened to some extent. It is similar in shape as peach but is considerably smaller. It is yellowish in color. The fruit which ripens on the tree alone develops its true flavors which are very much like that of the peach.
Apricot Scope in Pakistan
Apricot is grown in Pakistan mostly in northern areas. Pakistan ranked sixth in terms of production during 2012 according to FAO.
Districts of Gilgit, Diamer, Ghizer, Ghanche and Skardu In northern areas are considered best for apricot cultivation. Because Nature Has blessed these area with high mountains and large glaciers, that are suitable for apricot cultivation. In Pakistan apricot is treated as a cash crop along with other deciduous fruits. In Northern Areas 40% of the rural population earns annually from Rs.5000 to 6000 from apricot and from its by-products. In Pakistan apricot fruit is used as fresh and also in dried form. Kernel from the stone and dried fruit are the main food of the peoples of northern areas in winter season. Oil is extracted from the kernels and shells of the stone are used as a fuel for different purposes like cooking. There is considerable scope to develop and introduce new cultivars with extended shelf life of fruit and succeeding ripening. It was reported that there are about 60 varieties of apricot grown in northern areas of Pakistan. Some important varieties are Halman, Karfo chuli, Marghulam and Shara karfa.
Health Benefits of Apricot
The health benefits of apricot include its ability to treat indigestion, constipation, earaches, fevers, skin diseases, cancer and anemia. Apricot oil is useful for treating strained muscles and wounds. It is also believed that apricot is good for skin care, especially for women. This is why you find it added in various cosmetics. Furthermore, apricots have the ability to improve heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent the deterioration of vision, and help you to lose weight, treat respiratory conditions, boost bone strength, and maintain electrolyte balance in the body.
Apricots can be consumed directly, or dried and then eaten as a variety of dried fruit. It is also used in the preparation of various juices, jams, squash and jellies. Apricot oil can also be obtained from its kernel, and those powerful essential oils also have a lot of important impacts on health.
Apricots, scientifically known as Prunus armeniaca, are closely related to plums. It is difficult to understand the exact order of cultivation around the world, since it was both found wild and grown in prehistoric times. The scientific name is derived from Armenia, which is where most scientists believe apricots originated. However, they were also present in ancient Greece and Rome, and many other experts claim that original cultivation happened in India more than 3,000 years ago. The disputed origins are not important, but the impact of apricots on human health certainly is.
Apricots are small drupes that resemble peaches or plums. They have a soft, tangy flesh beneath a thin outer skin. In the middle of the apricot is a large pit, which is inedible, so be-careful when taking that first big bite! They are typically yellow or orange, with a slight tinge of red on one side. They can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways, and every culture treats apricots differently! One of the reasons they have been so popular throughout history is that they can be directly linked to a number of health benefits, due to their unique organic compounds, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, which are listed below.
Nutritional Value of Apricots
The impressive health benefits of apricots are due to the content of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, K, E, and niacin in significant amounts, as well as a number of other essential vitamins in trace amounts (less than 5% of daily requirement), as well as their mineral content, which includes potassium, copper manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Apricots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, like most fruits.
Benefits of Apricot Are,
The health benefits of apricots include the following:
Apricots are rich in fiber and are therefore good for smooth bowel movements. It is often recommended to patients who regularly suffer from constipation due to its laxative properties. Fiber is a way to bulk up the stool. In this way, it becomes easier to transport through the bowels to its eventual excretion from the body. Fiber stimulates the gastric and digestive juices that help absorb the nutrients and break down the food for easier processing. Furthermore, fiber also activates the peristaltic motion of the digestive tract, and those smooth muscles movements are what keep your bowel movements regulated.
Apricots have either significant or moderate amounts of all the minerals necessary for healthy bone growth. Calcium, phosphorous, manganese, iron, and copper all play a certain role in the creation of bone matter. Therefore, eating apricots can ensure the healthy growth and development of your bones, as well as preventing various age-related conditions, including osteoporosis.
Apricots are a wonderful way to protect your heart from a wide variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. The high amount of vitamin-C, as well as potassium and dietary fiber, all contribute to good cardiovascular health. Vitamin-C protects the heart from free radicals; potassium lowers blood pressure by relaxing the tension of blood vessels and arteries, while dietary fiber scrapes the excess cholesterol from the lining of the vessels and arteries, thereby clearing them and reducing the strain on the heart. All together, these properties of apricots make it ideal for boosting heart health.
Fluid Levels and Metabolism
Fluid levels throughout the body are dependent mainly on two minerals, potassium and sodium. The high amounts of potassium in apricots has been linked to maintaining fluid balance in the body, and ensuring that energy is properly distributed to the right organs and muscles. By maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes, you can have more energy, reduce cramping, and keep blood and usable energy pumping through your body as you need it.
Apricot oil is good for earaches, although the exact mechanism is still being studied. Dripping a few drops into the affected ear canal should prove to be a fast remedy. Scientists assume it has something to do with the antioxidant materials that apricot essential oil contains.
Apricot juice is often given to patients suffering from fever because it provides necessary vitamins, minerals, calories and water to the body, while also detoxifying various systems and organs. Some people also use steamed apricot to relieve fevers. In this way, apricot is a soothing, anti-inflammatory substance that can also impact the body’s overall temperature level when you aren’t sick. Furthermore, it can reduce inflammation in other parts of the body, like for people who suffer from arthritis or gout.
Apricot oil is good for skin care. It is quickly absorbed by the skin and does not keep the skin oily after it is applied. Apricots are not just useful for maintaining the smooth and shiny appearance of the skin; it also aids in treating a number of skin diseases including eczema, itching, scabies, and a number of other irritating conditions. This is specifically due to the antioxidant compounds found within apricots. Not only does it have a healthy amount of vitamin A (60% of your daily requirement per serving), which has long been associated with healthier skin, but the antioxidants in apricots protect the skin from the effects of free radicals, which can lead to skin deterioration and signs of premature aging.
Owing to the presence of iron and copper, apricots help in the formation of hemoglobin when you consume them. This property helps in treating anemia. Anemia is basically iron deficiency, and it can lead to weakness, fatigue, light headedness, digestive issues, and general metabolic function. Without red blood cells, the body can’t deoxygenate itself properly, and organ systems begin to malfunction. Iron is a key part of red blood cell formation, as is copper. Both of these minerals are present in apricots, making it a great tool to boost metabolism and keep the body functioning properly.
The seeds of apricot are believed to aid in the treatment of cancer. Between the carotenoids and the other antioxidant compounds that apricots have, it is no surprise that they are a threat to free radicals. Free radicals are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate their DNA into cancerous cells. Antioxidants neutralize these harmful compounds and ensure that the body doesn’t contract conditions like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging skin. Apricots have been directly linked to reducing the risk of cancer.
It is also believed that apricot oil is anti-asthmatic in nature and helps in treating the disease and its related symptoms. It has certain expectorant and stimulant qualities due to its essential oils. One of these can help to relieve pressure and stress on the lungs and respiratory system, thereby preventing asthma attacks before they begin.
A Few Words of Caution
There are no inherent dangers of eating apricots, except for normal allergies that some people might have. However, there is some concern about the healthy nature of dried fruit, which apricot is frequently made into. Sulphites have been found in most dried foods, and that is not a good thing. Sulphites can seriously impact asthma and induce asthmatic attacks. Therefore, as an asthma medicine, use fresh apricots, rather than dried versions. Other than that friendly caution, enjoy the tangy, sweet taste of apricots and see all the good it can do.