APRICOT

Juicy, sweet, and earthy, apricots are an easy summer treat. They are small enough to be a quick refreshing snack without any hassle

redvelvetapricotsThe apricot I sampled for today’s flavor is a beautiful burnished burgundy color, with a firm texture and even subtle hints of spice as the flavor settles. Apricots are a stone fruit, like the plum, peach and cherry. There is disagreement concerning origination of the apricot tree, which has made its way around the globe regardless of where it originally began.

From a culinary perspective, fresh apricots are a seasonal delight and can end up in all sorts of dishes from sweet to savory. They are a featured ingredient in a wide variety of cultural cuisine. One of my favorite dishes is apricot chicken, featuring fresh or dried apricots, saffron, cardamom and a number of other succulent spices.  Dried apricots are delicious, however, you want to make sure you are choosing unsulfured, which are not as aesthetically pleasing but are much better for you. Apricots have the added bonus of containing a pit that can be eaten and is sometimes used in conjunction with or as a substitute for almonds. Apricot kernels are an ingredient in Amaretto, which is an Italian liquor and also in some jams and traditional almond cookie recipes. That being said the kernels are best eaten in moderation as they contain a chemical toxin that converts to cyanide in your stomach and can have some pretty uncomfortable side effects if too many are eaten at once.

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From a health perspective, apricots are a great source of many of the same nutrients that their stone fruit cousins contain. They contain vitamins A and C, copper, potassium, and a wide variety of antioxidants and polyphenols.  Research suggests that they are helpful in decreasing systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that the chemical compounds found in the apricot are especially beneficial to the liver. They also contain a significant amount of lycopene, which is beneficial for decreasing the risk of cancer. Other antioxidants found in the happy little apricot; quercetin, catechins, proanthocyanidins and more, all of which contribute to your overall health and well-being.

A quick and easy way to bump up your dinner menu? Halve a few apricot remove the seed and bake them. Once they are a little browned and juicy remove from the oven and top with goat cheese and honey. Delicious!