Apricots come from small, warm-climate apricot trees belonging to Prunus Armeniaca. It belongs to the genus Prunus, or stone fruits, from the family Rosaceae. You can think of it as a close cousin of almonds, peaches, pears, apples, cherries, and strawberries since they all belong to the same family.
But what is the apricot tree, what does it look like, and where does it prefer to grow? Can your backyard be the right home for the tree? Let’s find out all about it before jumping to conclusions.
The tree is cultivated in most temperate regions worldwide for juicy, nutritious fruits. The fruits are a good source of Vitamin A and C and are popularly consumed fresh, cooked, canned, and dried. Dried apricots are even more nutritious than fresh ones – they are high in Vitamin A, E, and iron.
|Botanical Name||Prunus Armeniaca|
|Plant Type||A Perennial Fruit Tree|
|Size (Fully Grown)||Can Grow Even 35 Feet (About 10,6 Meters) Tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Prefers To Grow In A Well-draining Loamy Soil|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 7.5|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||5, 6, 7, And 8|
|Native Area||Armenia, Japan, China, Himalayas|
How Many Types Of Apricots Are There?
People grow different apricot varieties across the globe. They vary in fruit size, color, and tree characteristics. In addition, they differ in their hardiness to weather, harvest period, and the need for pollinizer trees.
While some may must you to plant many trees for pollination, others are self-pollinating. Here are some popular cultivars:
- Gold Kist
- August Glo
- Garden Annie
- Golden Amber
- Chinese (Mormon)
- Manchurian Apricot
The Disputed History Of Apricots!
Records connect the apricot tree’s origin to several different regions, and apricots have been cultivated in Armenia since ancient times.
Archeological digs have found 6000-years old apricot seeds in the region. Its botanical name, Prunus armeniaca, also connects it to its Armenian roots. The area is still home to a wide variety of apricots.
Many, including a prominent Russian botanist, Nikolai Vavilov, believe that the fruit originated somewhere near northeastern China’s Russian border. However, apricot trees have been cultivated in China at least since 1000BC.
Since the 7th century, the Chinese had also started preserving apricots. Apart from drying, which has been the most common preservation tactic since ancient times, apricots were smoked and salted.
In India, apricots have been cultivated since 3000 BC. However, John Claudius Loudon, a Scottish botanist, suggests that the fruit may be native to many world regions, including Armenia, Japan, China, the Himalayas, and the Caucasus.
When Did Apricots Come To America?
The English settlers brought the seeds to the New World in the 17th century. As a result, most of the apricots grown in the United States are offsprings of the seedlings brought to the west coast by Spanish missionaries.
In the US, California is the biggest producer of apricots (up to 94%). The rest comes from Washington and Utah.
But Which Countries Are The Largest Producers Of This Fruit?
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Turkey is the leading apricot producer globally, with 730,000 tons of apricots produced per year. Then there are Uzbekistan, Iran, Algeria, Italy, and Pakistan next in line.
How Can You Identify An Apricot Tree And Fruit?
These small, broad trees grow about 35 feet (about 10,6 meters) high, with a thick, spreading canopy. The tree is a beautiful sight in any backyard, with bright green foliage and white-pink blooms appearing before the greenery. Unfortunately, although it’s gorgeous in gardens, most growers plant it for the small yellow-orange fruits.
The dense, lush green foliage comprises alternating ovate leaves on the stem. With their round base, pointy edges, and serrated outline, you can easily distinguish an apricot tree from its leaves alone. Each leaf is 3 inches (about 8 cm) in length and 1 to 1,6 inches (about 3 to 4 cm) wide.
Besides the fruit, the tiny white flowers with a tinge of pink are a significant attraction for gardeners. The pink buds appear in early spring, before the leaves. The buds open up into a spectacular display of white flowers, each with five petals with a hint of pink. They can appear in a bunch on short flowering stems or be present individually.
The Apricot Itself
The major attraction for the tree and the reason for its cultivation is the orange-yellow fruit. The fruit looks much like peaches or nectarines but is smaller in size. The color ranges from yellow to dark orange, depending on the variety.
Again, the firm flesh is cream or orange, depending on the cultivar you pick. You may not find it as juicy as plum or peaches and somewhat firm, but that’s what makes it perfect for pies!
They are called stone fruits or drupes since they have a single seed in the center. The surface is usually smooth or may have small, soft hair.
What Kind Of Conditions Do Apricots Like To Grow In?
An apricot tree is a beautiful addition to any garden that gives plenty of flavorful trees with little care. Once you’ve nurtured it well and it has established into a tree, it requires barely any attention at all.
They grow well in regions where summers aren’t too harsh and winters are cold enough to allow a dormancy period. If you have a suitable climate for growing an apricot tree, it will help you to learn more about its preferences before you plant one.
Most apricot varieties are cold-hardy, but it’s better to choose a cultivar that’s suited to your climate. The flowers need a dormancy period of below 45°F (about seven °C) to turn into fruits.
If the temp gets too cold, the flowers will start dying off. So, as a general tip, if you get late spring frosts in your region, go for late-blooming varieties, like Prunus Armeniaca ‘Polish’.
You can also install poles around the tree and drape a horticultural fleece over it to protect the flowers from the frost spells while they set fruit. Remember to remove the fabric during daylight hours so the tree can enjoy plenty of sunlight and pollination isn’t hindered.
Soil And Sun
Apricot trees ask for plenty of sunlight to produce abundant blooms and beautiful harvests. So they shouldn’t be shaded by walls or taller trees, especially while they’re still young.
This is why a south-facing spot that gets several hours of full sunlight each day is ideal for growing apricots. First, prepare a well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter amended to a good depth. Then dig a hole twice the depth and radius of the rootball and backfill with soil. After that, water it well.
Maintain consistent moisture in the soil with an inch (about 2,5 cm) of water each week. Watering is especially critical during the flowering and fruiting stages. So, don’t let them get thirsty while the fruits are setting and always water at the base.
This is because soaking the foliage, flowers, and fruits makes them susceptible to diseases, so better avoid it if you don’t want to compromise your harvest.
Pruning apricot trees isn’t just essential to keep them looking prim and proper but also to maintain their health and make the most out of their harvest. Early spring or late fall is the best time to prune your tree, just as the flowers begin to appear.
Since the tree is already growing during this period, it will heal the cuts quickly before catching diseases. Many gardeners also like to thin the fruits to about two inches (about 5 cm) apart to get more flavorful and bigger apricots. If you skip the thinning, you’ll have a more significant yield, but the fruits will be much smaller in size.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Apricots?
It’s undoubtedly a nutritious fruit that helps improve your heart health, helps with weight loss, and improves muscle strength, along with countless other benefits. But, are there any medical conditions in which you should avoid apricots? Let’s find out!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
It’s a rich nutrient source, making it healthy for pregnant and breastfeeding women. But, overdose should be avoided since it’s unknown if excess consumption could be harmful.
Dried apricots are an excellent source of iron for toddlers. Both fresh and dried apricots can be served to babies early on. Apricot allergies are rare, but consult a doctor if you see swollen lips, tongue, or face after consumption. In addition, babies with birch pollen allergies are often allergic to apricots.
People With Allergies
People with birch pollen allergy may experience oral allergy syndrome upon consuming apricots. Thus, you could also be allergic to other similar fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, and nuts.
People With Diabetes
Apricots are among the comparatively safer fruits that people with diabetes may include in their diets.
Beware! These lovely fruit trees are toxic to your pets! The foliage and seeds of an apricot tree contain cyanide. Ingestion may cause breathing difficulties, dilated pupils, shock, or death.