Yesterday, January 9th was National Apricot Day.
Because fresh apricots aren’t in season until summer, we recommended making these couldn’t-be-easier chocolate-dipped dried apricots.
They’re delicious with coffee and tea, as part of a petit fours plate for dessert, as a garnish for ice cream, or to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Since we purchased more apricots than chocolate, we got to thinking: What else can we do with dried apricots?
Appetizers: Try a half apricot on an appetizer skewer with cubed chicken and pineapple; in a prosciutto roll (photo #3); as a diced garnish on canapés.
Bagels. You’ll have a one-up on a raisin bagel when you sprinkle diced apricots atop the cream cheese on a plain bagel.
Breads & Muffins: Quick breads, scones…all bread products taste great with some diced dried apricots. Try this recipe.
Cakes, Cookies, Energy Bars: Add chopped apricots to layer cake fillings and garnishes, substitute for raisins and other dried fruits in cookies and bars. Check out these Apricot Newtons and Apricot Cheesecake Bars.
Cheese Plate: Serve apricot halves with cheese and whole wheat crackers; dice them and add to a grilled cheese sandwich with brie, blue cheese or goat cheese.
Chocolate Fondue: Add apricots to the dippers (here’s a list of dessert dippers).
Cottage Cheese & Yogurt: Dice the apricots and blend them in.
Dip: Purée your choice of crumbled blue cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, dates, dried apricots, and pecans. Serve dip with crudites, pretzels or other crunchy options; spread it on a sandwich or on bagels.
Fruit Compote: Here’s a timely recipe for Winter Fruit Compote.
Fruit Salad. Mix dried apricots with fresh seasonal fruits for a fruit salad (you can also add dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries and raisins). Add them to a Waldorf Salad* or Ambrosia Salad.
Gift: For a favorite food friend, make these Dried Apricots In Cardamom Syrup.
Grab & Go: Add some variety to your apple or banana snack; or add some nuts to an apricot snack bag for extra protein.
Green Salads: Crown a green salad with an apricot half.
Hot Cereal: Oatmeal and other hot cereals are tastier with a garnish of diced dried apricots. (You can also make a dried fruit medley with dates, dried cranberries, raisins, etc.) Also add to Overnight Oats.
Ice Cream & Sorbet: Use a dried apricot half as a crown, to garnish the top of the scoop.
Raisin Substitute: From Ants On A Log to oatmeal cookies and rice pudding, diced apricots are just as yummy, and a more colorful replacement.
Rice and Grains: Add diced apricots as a garnish, or mix them in. For a fruited Grain Pilaf, toss the grain with dried cranberries, diced dried apricots, raisins, sautéed garlic and slivered almonds.
Salad Topper: Toss or mix dried apricots onto/into your favorite chicken, seafood or pasta salad.
Snacks: Garnish a bowl of popcorn with apricot halves or diced apricots, dip apricot halves into chocolate (recipe) for a most delicious confection.
Stuffing: Chicken, lamb and pork love a stuffing with dried apricots.
Apricots are a stone fruit in the genus Prunus (stone fruit genus), family Rosaceae (rose family) and order Rosales (flowering plants order).
Other genus members include almonds, cherries, peaches and plums. The stone fruits are so named because there’s a large, hard pit [stone] in the center (photo #1).
Apricots are cultivated throughout the temperate regions of the world—in fact, on every continent except Antarctica. The apricot tree, Prunus armeniaca, got its name because it was long thought to have originated in Armenia (which cultivates some 50 varieties of apricots).
Archaeologists have discovered apricot seeds in Armenian sites that date to the Chalcolithic-era (Copper Age)—roughly 3500 B.C.E. to 2300 B.C.E.
However, other archeo-botanists point to the Chinese region as the likely site of domestication, and others point to India, about 3000 B.C.E.
Apricots have been cultivated in Persia since antiquity; the dried fruits were an important commodity on Persian trade routes. Alexander The Great brought rootstock from Persia (modern-day Iran) to Greece.
For medicinal uses, the oil from the kernels inside the pits has for millennia been part of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines.
By the 17th century, apricot kernel oil was used homeopathically in England to fight tumors, swelling and ulcers.
Modern users like it for skin and hair health and for massage. Some still use it as a homeopathy remedy.
In the 17th century, English settlers brought the apricot to the New World. Most of our modern American apricots groves come from seedlings carried to the West Coast by Spanish missionaries.
U.S. commercial production remains in California, with some in Washington and Utah [source].
In 2011, the top five producers of apricots were Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Italy and Algeria [source].
*A Waldorf Salad, which originated at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, consists of apples, walnuts, grapes and mayonnaise on a bed of lettuce.
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