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Freshly picked Manchurian apricots.

The Golden Prune

Some say that nearly 4,000 years ago a small, juicy, sweet, golden fruit was “discovered” in China and then made its way to the rest of the world via the Silk Road trade route through the Middle East. Others claim this gilded fruit originated in Armenia, hence its Latin classification Prunus armeniaca. Of course what I’m talking about is what you and I know today as simply the apricot.

While it is believed that the Arab traders brought the apricot to the Mediterranean, its introduction to Greece is credited to Alexander the Great. At one time apricot juice was considered the “nectar of the gods” by the Greeks and Romans. Today the apricot is one of Italy’s most important agricultural crops. At the turn of the 21st century, the top five producers of apricots (according to Britannica) were Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, Italy, and Algeria.

The New World got its first taste of this divine fruit when Spanish explorers and missionaries introduced it to California. About the same time, on the other side of the continent, English settlers brought it to the new colonies of North America. Today the vast majority of North American apricots are grown in California.

Health Benefits of Apricots

Not only are apricots delicious, but they are also packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Nutritionists tell us that apricots are a significant source of fiber which helps our body process food through our gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is also believed to help stimulate the gastric and digestive juices that help us break down our food so that we can get its full nutritional value.

Apricots are also a great source of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, and copper. For summer time desert dwellers, who sweat, potassium is an especially important electrolyte which helps our bodies keep the optimal fluid balance and promotes the proper functioning of our muscles. Muscle cramping is sometimes an indication of a lack of potassium.

In the vitamin department, apricots are a good source of Vitamin A (which is good for eyesight and skin health). One cup of apricots contains roughly 160 micrograms of Vitamin A. Apricots also contain vitamin C, but this vitamin is lost if you eat them after they have been dried. (Potassium and Vitamin A are retained in dried apricots.)

Apricots do contain a decent amount of sugar, so if you are watching your caloric intake, it is best to eat them raw. In dried apricots the sugar is concentrated without the added bulk of water which means you can eat a lot more of the fruit before your appetite is satisfied — hence more sugar is consumed.

This Week at the Market

It’s apricot season in Southern Arizona and the Sierra Vista Farmers Markets has these “golden prunes” that are grown right here in Cochise County. Apricot season is rather short, so make sure you stop by our local produce vendors and get their incredibly delicious and healthful fruit while they are fresh and tasty. Oh, and in case you are wondering, our locally grown apricots come to you minus the herbicides and pesticides found in and on most of today’s commercially grown fruit.

The summer growing season is just starting, so it’s an exciting time at the farmers market. Each week you’ll find new seasonal fruits and vegetables. Along with the apricots early peaches are starting to show up at the market. We are also now starting to see fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, squash, onions, garlic, beans, and egg plant. With these relatively mild summer temperatures many of our produce vendors are still able to grow lettuce and other greens.

For a full list of all the great produce, meat products, body and healthcare products, as well as amazing creations from the talented hands of our artisans, visit our website www.sierravistafarmersmarkets.com where you can read our weekly newsletter or subscribe so it comes right to your inbox.

We hope to see you at the market this week!

Holiday Schedule

In honor of Independence Day there will not be a farmers market on Thursday, July 4. Winnie and I wish you all a wonderful Independence Day celebration with your friends and family.

Submitted by William Struse

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