Apricots. They are so heavenly that just the mention of them sends a shiver up my spine. They remind me of when I used to sit in the apricot trees at my mom’s house, and just eat and eat until my stomach ached, smiling all the while. Offering a flavor that is a little bit sweet and a little bit tart, apricots are kind of like peach’s sexy cousin, who only comes to visit for a few weeks at the beginning of each summer.
Many connect apricot’s origins to Armenia, possibly because of the fact that they have been deeply entwined within that culture for so long; but historians point to China as the most likely birthplace of this delightful little member of the plum family.
An excellent source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber—the apricot is as well known for its health benefits as its flavor. Apricots’ antioxidants may help prevent heart disease, reduce “bad cholesterol” and protect against cancer and cataracts. Specifically, apricots are one of nature’s best sources of carotenoids, a powerful antioxidant, according to just about any website related to the topic.
Apricots are eaten fresh, dried, cooked into pastry jam, and distilled into brandy and other liqueurs. An essential oil derived from the pits and sold as “bitter almond oil,” is reported to have a variety of health benefits, and has been used since ancient times by the Romans, the Chinese and other civilizations, according to Health Guidance’s excellent website.
Unfortunately, the apricot season is short-lived: so eat all you can now.
Almost all of the fresh apricots found during peak season, which is late spring to early summer, are from California. When choosing apricots they should be slightly soft, with a relatively bright orange color and slight reddish tinge. Don’t choose ones that are yellow or greenish; they were picked too early and will have little flavor.
These days you can also find three kinds of apricot/plum hybrids on the market—pluots, which are mostly plums; plumcots, which are an equal blend; and apriums, which are mostly apricots. All are quite delicious and worthy of consideration.
Our recipe this time features a salad with apricots, arugula, prosciutto and goat cheese. The sweet, tanginess of the apricots melds wonderfully with the salty cure of the prosciutto, the peppery fresh of the arugula and the creamy musk of the goat cheese. Add a little zip with the lemon juice and this is about as refreshing and delicate a summer salad as it gets.
Apricot, Goat Cheese
and Arugula Salad
3 oz. Arugula
2 oz. Goat cheese, crumbled
1-2 Apricots, medium, sliced
2 Prosciutto slices, cut into thin strips
1 oz. Lemon juice
2 oz. Olive oil
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Toss arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and toss again. Place arugula on plate, and top with cheese, prosciutto and apricots. Consume voraciously.
Joe Benevento is a local chef and lover of all fruits and vegetables, especially kale. He served as the head chef at Bend’s Tart Bistro until its closure earlier this year. Read more from Joe on his blog at culinarilyminded.com.