Apricots - Buying, Storing and Preparing

Buying, Storing and Preparing Apricots

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 the fruit.

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 quickly.

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.

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