A fruit brimming with beta-carotene.
Apricots originally hailed from China. Cuttings of this golden fruit made their way across the Persian Empire to the Mediterranean where they flourished. The Spanish explorers get credit for introducing the apricot to the New World, and specifically to California, where they were planted in the gardens of Spanish missions. In 1792, in an area south of San Francisco, the first major production of apricots was recorded.
These irresistible sweet-tart treats are packed with beta-carotene and fiber, all the better to fight cancer. Many studies have suggested that beta-carotene, the plant form of Vitamin A, may have anticancer activity. Some studies suggest a protective effect in the stomach, colon, and cervix. And there’s lots of evidence that colon cancer is less common in populations that eat a diet high in fiber.
Apricots are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A, especially when dried. They’re essential for healthy skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin A is also needed for good sight; insufficient amounts can cause night blindness, impair sight and increase susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Although it is one of the few vitamins which we can theoretically build up to toxic levels, this doesn’t normally happen if it is taken naturally.
Fresh apricots are also high in Vitamin C, provide a good source of potassium and low in sodium for blood pressure control and stroke protection. They are practically calorie-free, containing only about 17 calories each. Dried apricots are a more concentrated source of calories, but a 1/2 cup still contains only about 150 calories and provides more than 90 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A.
The fresh apricot harvest begins in mid-May and lasts for about eight weeks. When selecting fresh apricots, look for plump, well-formed, fairly firm fruit with a delicate aroma and golden orange color. To ripen firm fruit, hold at room temperature or place in a paper bag with an apple or banana. They are fully ripe when they are soft to the touch and juicy. To keep apricots from over ripening, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Apricots can be made into wine and brandy. Can we say YUM!? But I’ll be a good girl and share a much healthier recipe.
Caprese Salad with Apricots
- Sliced Tomatoes (Some people like to match to the size of the apricots, but the Sun Gold tomatoes are my personal favorite. I say go for flavor and choose your favorite!)
- Apricots (pits removed and cut into slices)
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Basil Leaves (washed and dried)
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar (best quality)
- Salt (and fresh ground black pepper to taste)
Slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick and arrange on serving platter. Place a slice of apricot on top of each tomato, cut side up. Put a slice of fresh mozzarella on top of the apricots, with a couple of fresh basil leaves on top of the mozzarella. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and serve.