When buying apricots, always look for those
that are firm, plump orange fruit that gives slightly when you press
with your thumb. Bruised apricots should be avoided. Like apples and
potatoes, apricots contain polyphenoloxidase, an enzyme that combines
with phenols in the apricots to produce brownish pigments that discolor
When apricots are bruised, cells are broken,
releasing the enzyme so that brown spots form under the bruise. Avoid
apricots that are hard or mushy or withered. All are less flavorsome
than ripe, firm apricots, and the withered ones will decay quickly. Also
avoid greenish apricots as they are low in carotenes and will never
ripen satisfactorily at home.
Always try to store ripe apricots in the
refrigerator and use them within a few days. Apricots do not lose their
vitamin A in storage, but they are very perishable and rot fairly
When you peel or slice an apricot, you tear
its cells walls, releasing polyphenoloxidase, an enzyme that reacts with
phenols in the apricots, producing brown compounds that darken the
fruit. Acids inactivate polyphenoloxidase, so you can slow down this
reaction (but do not stop it completely) by dipping raw sliced and/or
peeled apricots into a solution of lemon juice or vinegar and water or
by mixing them with citrus fruits in a fruit salad. Polyphenoloxidase
also works more slowly in the cold, but storing peeled apricots in the
refrigerator is much less effective than an acid bath.
To peel apricots easily, drop them into
boiling water for a minute or two, then lift them out with a slotted
spoon and plunge them into cold water. As with tomatoes, this works
because the change in temperature damages a layer of cells under the
skin so the skin slips off easily.
If you are wondering what actually happened
when you cook apricots, cooking dissolves pectin, the primary fiber in
apricots, and softens the fruit. But it does not change the color or
lower the vitamin A content because carotenes are impervious to the heat
of normal cooking.