Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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The apricots that are most familiar in the West are fruits of Prunus armeniaca, a native of China that was taken to the Mediterranean during Roman times. There are now thousands of different varieties, white and red (from lycopene) as well as orange, and most of them adapted to specific climates; apricots flower and fruit early (the name comes from the Latin praecox, “precocious”), and therefore bear best in areas with mild, predictable winters. Several other species are grown in Asia, including P. mume, whose fruits the Japanese salt-pickle and color red to make the condiment umeboshi. The distinctive aroma of fresh apricots comes from a rich mixture of terpenes that provide citrus, herbal, and floral notes, and from peach-like compounds (lactones). They are rich in pectin, which gives them a luscious texture when fully ripe, a meaty texture when dried.