Apricots, one of the first of the summer fruits to enjoy, are a high fiber, low calorie treat. Fans of the fruit know they are best immediately after being picked from the tree. Three fresh apricots only contain 50 calories. They are a rich source of beta carotene, iron, and potassium.
The antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamin C which fresh apricots also contain in abundance, protect cells from the damage that occurs when the body burns oxygen, and thus help slow down the aging process and may prevent diseases often associated with aging like heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron. Choose apricots with an intense golden orange color for the most beta carotene.
Dried apricots, a fat-free snack, contain concentrated amounts of the nutrients found in fresh apricots, except for vitamin C which is lost during the drying process. Sulfites used to preserve the bright color of the fruit when dried can cause allergies or asthma attacks for people who are allergic to sulfites. People who are allergic to aspirin should also be aware that apricots contain natural salicylate.
The apricot is thought to have originated in Armenia where archeologists have excavated apricot seeds from the Chalcolithic or Copper Age, about the late 5th to the late 3rd millennia BC, just before the Early Bronze Age. The apricot was introduced to Greece by Alexander the Great. Greece, today, is one of the top ten producers of apricots in the world. The fruit is popular eaten fresh or dried, or baked into desserts or cooked into a classic spoon sweet.
2 1/2 pounds fresh apricots
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
Wash, pit, and cut the apricots into halves. Place in a large deep pot or Dutch oven. Add the sugar and the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until nicely thickened. Add the juice of one lemon and stir. Remove from heat and transfer to sterilized jars. Makes about 4 cups of jam. Keep in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve with toast for breakfast or as a topping for ice cream or Greek yogurt.