Market Mondays – Apricots

Like our friend the plum from last week, the apricot is from the family Prunus. Originally thought to originate in China from as far back as 3000 BC, the apricot came to the Western world via Armenia. Apricots are now cultivated in all parts of the world, but are still an extremely important crop in the Middle East, particularly Iran where dried apricots have been an important commodity for centuries. Check the packaging on dried apricots you purchase in the supermarket – they likely come from Iran or Turkey.

Apricots are high in beta-carotene as well as Vitamin A. They are high in fibre and the dried version of the fruit is considered a good treatment for constipation. High in the anti-oxidant caretenoid,  apricots may help lower bad cholesterol and protect against cancer. The kernal or pit of the apricot also has many uses; dried and ground, it becomes the basis for the Italian amaretti cookie, and apricot kernal oil is the main ingredient in the liqueur Disaronno Amaretto. Apricot kernal was also once incorrectly thought to cure certain types of cancer, but because it contains toxic levels of cyanide, it was not considered an effective treatment for that disease.

When purchasing apricots, look for fruits that are a rich orange colour and that are slightly soft to the touch. If eating apricots for their health benefits, note that the riper the fruit the higher the level of anti-oxidants.

Grilled Apricots with Honey and Thyme
from Christopher Palik, Executive Chef, L-Eat Catering and Paese Ristorante

6 almost ripe Ontario apricots
Extra virgin olive oil
Some good quality honey
2 sprigs of thyme

Makes enough for a garnish for 3 to 4 people.

Start by pre-heating your grill to a pretty hot temperature.

Cut the apricots in half, removing the stone. Toss the apricots with a table spoon of the olive oil. Place the apricots on the grill cut side down. Roast until a light golden brown and they are giving up some of their juices. Turn over and cook for about a minute. Remove from the grill and place back in the mixing bowl. Drizzle with the honey. Remove the leaves of thyme from the sprig and sprinkle over the apricots. Toss to coat. This is a simple preparation that can work in many ways. It’s great as a side to grilled meats like chicken or pork. Great on top of a bowl of really good vanilla ice cream or tossed in a salad.

Apricots in Syrup
by Bridgitte Hafner,
Like I did with the stewed cherries a few weeks back, my plan is to cook and preserve various fruits throughout the season. (Especially because, with no canneries in Ontario anymore, canned fruit in winter is all imported.) I bought a huge bag of apricots this week and made this recipe yesterday. It’s awesome!

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 a vanilla bean, split along the side
6 cardamom pods, cracked open
1 tsp orange blossom water
10-12 apricots
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Bring the water and sugar to the boil and add the split vanilla bean and cardamom pods. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes to get the flavours happening.

Add the orange blossom water and apricots and cook a few minutes until you see they have softened. This will depend on the ripeness of the apricots. If they are very ripe, you will only need to cook them very briefly as they can go to mush quite quickly. (No matter, though, if they do, they will still taste delicious).

Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and cool a little before placing in the fridge to chill.