Originating in China, apricots are cousins to peaches, nectarines, and plums. They are available from mid-May to mid-August, which means we are currently in peak season to enjoy this delicious fruit. Apricots provide an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, fiber, iron, potassium, and phytochemicals (phenolic acids and flavonoids). 

Beta-carotenes are a brightly colored red-orange pigment that serves as a precursor for vitamin A. Beta-carotene and vitamin A are important for your health for a variety of reasons. Some of which include:

– help modulate the body’s immune system and inflammatory response 

– reduce the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration 

– increases the skin’s defenses against UV radiation and helps maintain skin health and appearance. 

– contributes to cognitive function and cognitive performance across the lifespan. 

– Due to its antioxidant effect, beta-carotenes can protect LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) from oxidizing, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease 

Potential toxic effects of apricot kernels

Apricots seeds have been thought to cure cancer. However, in 2015, a review of studies published by the Cochrane Library concluded that there was no reliable evidence. In fact, apricot kernels contain amygdalin, which is converted into cyanide in the body. Cyanide is toxic, and excessive intake of apricot kernels can cause death. Despite the controversies, the apricot kernel is not an approved cancer treatment by the FDA.

How to choose

For a sweet and robust flavor, buy apricots during the season, from late spring through the summer. Imported apricots have been picked when under-ripe, which may reduce their flavor. Choose apricots that are plump, firm, and uniformly colored. You can also buy dried or canned apricots.

How to store

Store apricots at room temperature until ripe then in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for 3-5 days.

Ways to include apricots in your diet

Apricots are a versatile fruit that can be broiled, grilled, poached, eaten raw, or as a preserve. Here are five ideas for apricots:

– Use apricots and sage to stuff a pork loin or roast chicken

– Apricot cubes in a rice pilaf with sliced almonds and cranberries

– Quinoa with apricots and pistachios

– Add dried apricots to your favorite breakfast cereal

– Add dried or grilled apricots on your favorite low-fat chicken, lamb, seafood, or pasta salad.

3 Fun facts

– 8.8 oz. of fresh or 1 oz. of dried apricots provides 100% daily body requirements of vitamin A.

– Apricots are high in iron, which is unusual in fresh fruit.

– The excessive ingestion of beta-carotene usually leads to carotenemia, a reversible condition that results in orange color in the skin due to beta-carotene deposition in the outermost layer of the epidermis.

The recipe of the week comes via Once Upon a Chef 

Basmati Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Almonds

Servings: 4

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups basmati rice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions, from one small onion

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-1/4 cups water

1-1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots (you can also use raisins)

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted until golden

Directions

  1. Place rice in a medium bowl and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release any excess starch. Carefully pour off the water, leaving rice in the bowl. Repeat four to five times, until water runs almost clear. Using a fine-mesh strainer, drain water from rice. Place the strainer over the bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic to sautéed onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add rice to the pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add water, salt, and pepper to rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 15-18 minutes. Off heat, remove the lid, and sprinkle dried fruit over rice (do not mix in). Place lid loosely over the pot and let stand 10 minutes. Toss in toasted almonds, fluff rice with a fork, then serve.

* Note, the recipe was edited.