Gardening Know How

The apricot is from the Prunus genus. There are a number of apricot species that fall under the genus, but the most common for the apricot tree is known by the scientific name Prunus armeniaca, which means Armenian plum.

Apricots are widely believed to have originated in Armenia; however the exact origins are very much debated. Records show apricots have been grown and cultivated in China and Central Asia since 2000BC.

Some scholars suggest Chinese traders introduced the apricot to Persia and the Mediterranean, with merchants carrying them along the Silk Road. Apricots were eventually cultivated in Europe, with the English bringing them to Australia. There are many varieties of apricots grown across the globe, especially in the Middle East.

Moorpak, Blenheim, Hunter and Trevatt are some of the most common varieties produced in Australia; however they are not actively sold under specific names. In 2018, The South Australian Research and Development Institute released 17 new varieties of apricots as part of a breeding program.

Growth and harvest

Apricot trees thrive in cooler climates, with the majority of fruit grown in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley and Swan Hill, Renmark in South Australia and Perth Hills in Western Australia.

Cool winters are a necessity for the success of the trees, which lose their leaves and become dormant during winter. Late winter and early spring is a good time to prune trees, which will encourage new growth before they flower during late spring onwards. Well-drained soil and regular deep watering is also crucial for quality fruit.

Apricots grow from spurs and ripen over a three-week period. Fruit should be left on the tree until it can be easily pulled off.

Flavour profile and appearance

Apricot trees are small and grow between 8-12 metres high. Trees are covered in green leaves that are long and ovate in shape with a serrated margin and pointed tip. Flowers are pink and white in colour, with full bloom achieved when five petals fully open.

Apricots can grow up to 1 inch in diameter and have a smooth, velvet surface covered in short hairs. Australian apricots are orange in colour, with the sun-facing side of the fruit developing a red tinge.

The fruit has a unique flavour which changes during the ripening process. Apricots have a tangy, sweet taste with citrus accents, and can be described as a cross between a peach and a plum.

Culinary applications and storage

There are myriad ways to prepare apricots, from eating fresh to stewing, drying, roasting, smoking and salting. Apricots are used to make amardeen in the Middle East, which sees apricot flesh spread out into a paste that is dried in the sun. The sheets are diluted with water to make a drink to break Ramadan.

Dried and fresh apricots are used heavily in sweet and savoury Middle Eastern cooking, with lamb a common protein pairing. Due to the short time period they’re available, apricots are typically turned into jams and used as a showcase ingredient in pies and salads.