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The apricot, or Prunus armeniaca, is a member of the plum family. Its origin is uncertain, but the apricot has been cultivated for so long in Armenia that it is considered to have originated from the area. An organic apricot is an apricot that has been cultivated and harvested without the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. More labor is involved in growing organic fruit, such as manual insect removal versus spraying with synthetic pesticides, so organic apricots generally are more expensive than apricots that have been cultivated with the use of chemicals.
Seeds from the ancient apricot, harvested for at least 6,000 years, have been discovered in the Shengavit and Garni Temple archaeological excavations in Armenia. Spanish conquistadors brought the apricot to the American continent to populate the many Spanish mission orchards along the Pacific Coast. Today, nearly 95 percent of all apricots produced in the United States come from the sunny orchards of California. Apricots are grown in all parts of the world, preferring a continental climate with cold winters. Turkey and Iran are the leaders in world apricot production.
Demand for organic apricots and other organic food products has increased dramatically over the years. Synthetic pesticides and other toxic chemicals were largely introduced during the early 20th century as a means to improve the food industry. The profligate use of chemicals, however, has been shown to have ecological and long-term health hazards. Thin-skinned fruits such as the apricot absorb chemicals. The rise of organic farming has been developed to meet increasing consumer demand for wholesome, clean, toxic-free foods.
The organic apricot is an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin A, which are essential nutrients for maintaining the immune system and healthy skin, preventing heart disease, protecting against cancer and improving night vision. Organic apricots can be enjoyed fresh, dried or cooked. Fresh organic apricots do not store or travel well, and they are best when used within a few days after being harvested. Cooking with apricot is much like cooking with fruit such as nectarines or peaches. Canned organic apricot might even taste better than fresh, because canned apricots typically are left on the tree longer to ripen.
Apricots usually are dried, because of the propensity for the fresh fruit to perish. Egyptians add sweetener to fried apricots and use them for an apricot-flavored drink called amar al din. The kernel of organic apricot is very sweet and is used as a substitute for almonds, as a cooking oil and for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Scientific studies on organic apricot seeds show that they might offer a treatment for prostate cancer and other tumors.