Fruit Fact: Apricot, a type of Stone Fruit
Introduction: The apricot is a species of prunus, Prunus armeniaca, and is very closely related to plums. Both plums and apricots are in the subgenus Prunus of the genus prunus. (Yes, a mouth full.) There are also many hybrids, including black apricots such as Alexander and Mirocais, (Prunus x dasycarpa).
Family: Apricots is in the family Rosaceae.
Common Names: Armenian Plum, Armenian Apple
Related species: All stone fruits, but in particular Japanese and European plums, cherries, peaches, and nectarines.
Distant affinity: Other members of the rosaceae family.
Although apricots are often thought to be native to Armenia, (hence the botanical name prunus armeniaca), their exact origin are unknown due their widespread cultivation all the way back to prehistoric times. Given the evidence for their very early cultivation in Japan, China and India, the most accurate statement we can make today is that the Apricot is native to a large swath of land crossing from Japan into China and down into the himalayas.
The word apricot actually has roots in the original Romans usage of the term "mālum praecocum, or '‘early-ripening apple for apricots.
Apricots are best adapted to continental type climates with cold, wet Winters and dryish Springs and Summers. However, there are many varieties of apricots that are relatively low chill and can grow very well in milder warmer climates. Apricots do not like wet Springs as wet blossoms will not set fruit and lead to infections of brown rot. As such, apricots are ideally adapted to Mediterranean climates, especially the Central Valley of California and Chile.
Chill Requirements: The chill requirement of apricots varies widely based on the specific variety. Once enough chill is accumulated, apricots have a very low heat unit accumulation requirement to bloom, hence apricot scion wood will often start blooming even when in cold storage in the refrigerator. Low chill varieties will bloom very early, and can often be one of the first trees in bloom in the garden even if the weather is still on the cool side. High chill varieties will bloom very late and are more desirable in areas with wet early Springs. Some high chill apricots appear to be able to adapt somewhat to slightly inadequate chill requirements, in which case they need to accumulate additional heat units to break dormancy and bloom. In those situations, he number of blooms is often reduced. Moorpark is an example of a high chill variety that will still produce a limited crop even in inadequate chill situations.
Growth Habit: Apricot trees are medium sized, up to 20 feet in height, and broad, spreading, with limited longevity. Grafted trees will often be smaller, remaining 8-12 feet in height. Apricots are fully deciduous and are one of the first fruit trees to go dormant in the Fall.
Flowers: White and sometimes pink flowers around 1 inch in diameter are produced in singles or in pairs before any leaves appear. Flowers have 5 petals. Flowers are the pathway for brown rot to infect the tree, and will not set in the rain.
Fruits: The fruit has a fuzzy skin and resembles a small peach, or could be compared to a plum with fuzzy skin. Fruit size varies as a function of cultivar, some are as small as cherries, others will produce very large fruit approaching the size of a good sized peach. (Anywhere from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter depending on the cultivar.) The texture is smooth and soft, and the flavor is sweet and somewhat musky and complex. Fruit color varies anywhere from reddish to light yellow, almost white, but most varieties are orange. There are black or dark purple colored bybrids.
Apricots have single seeds enclosed in a hard kernel. Most apricots are essentially freestone, i.e. the kernel is not attached to the fruit flesh.
Location: Apricots prefer warm, dry and sunny locations with plenty of air flow and good, and well draining loamy soil.warning.pngUnsupported type "_geo" defined for property.
Irrigation: Apricot trees require a regular water supply. Typically, Apricot trees will drive a tap root down and find a good supply of ground water, but most dwarfing plum and especially peach rootstock will require regular Summer irrigation.
Fertilization: Apricots are not very picky when it comes to nutrients, and require mainly a good supply of nitrogen. But a good balanced fertilizer is best early during bloom and up to about 6 weeks before harvest. After that, it's best to withhold fertilizer to help to concentrate the flavors.
Pruning: Two rules of thumb need to be applied to pruning an apricot. The first is that apricots require plenty of air flow to reduce fungal disease. Fruit exposed to sun is also often better flavored. Therefore, it is recommended to prune them with a nice and wide open center to provide plenty of airflow and light into the tree center. The second rule is that apricots bloom mostly on first year wood, and on small offshoots on older wood. This means that the tree needs to regularly produce more shoots in order to fruit. Regular Winter pruning will ensure a good supply of fresh first year wood. Prune in the Summer only to control size, as Summer pruning will not induce any new growth.
Frost Protection:: Apricots are very hardy when dormant, but have a tendency to have bud swelling during warm spells in the Winter. This makes them more susceptible to damage in cold Winter climates that do not provide steady continuous cold temperatures. At first bud swelling, 10% kill occurs at 15F. Once the bud tip separates, the hardiness drops further to 10% kill at 20F and 90% kill at 0F. Once the calyx turns red, 10% kill occurs at 22F up to 90% kill at 9F. After the appearance of the first white, 24F will produce 10% kill and 14F will produce 90% kill. At Full bloom, 27F produces 10% kill and 22F will produce 90% kill. Once green fruit appears, 28F produces 10% kill and 25F will produce 90% kill.
Pollination: Apricots are mostly self fertile, but some varieties do require cross pollination. Rains and wet weather inhibit fruit set and provide a pathway for serious brown rot infections.
Propagation: Apricots do not come true from seed and are propagated via grafting. Apricots are compatible with both plum and peach rootstock and can be readily grafted onto both plums and peaches. In California, it is best to use a semi-dwarfing or standard rootstock in order to provide better drought tolerance. Summer pruning can be used to achieve the desired size. The commonly available rootstocks for apricots include lovell peach, nemaguard, myrobalan 29C, and marianna 26-24. Citation, a commonly used heavily dwarfing rootstock performs poorly under drought conditions. In contrast, myrobalan 29C is incredibly vigorous even in drier sandier soils.
Pest And Diseases: Apricots are susceptible to several bacterial diseases: bacterial canker, bacterial blast, bacterial spot and crown gall. They are highly susceptible to fungal diseases including brown rot, black knot, Alternaria spot, fruit rot, and sometimes powdery mildew. Grafting will often transmit viral diseases.
Harvest: The bulk of the apricot harvest occurs in May and early June, and into July in cooler climates. Some late varieties will ripen as late as August. With the exception of a few varieties, apricots will often readily drop from the tree when ripe.
Storage And Consumption: Apricots do not increase in sugar content once picked off the tree. Therefore, only fully tree ripened apricots will develop the right flavor and texture. Many commercial apricots are picked when still hard to increase their shelf life. They will soften in storage, but at the cost of flavor and sugar content.
Commercial Potential: Apricots are a common commercial crop. There are unusual strains of apricots that are black or dark colored that could provide a new niche market for specialty rare fruit growers. In addition, heirloom white apricots and highly flavored heirloom apricots are not readily available and in high demand at local farmers markets.
Apricots varieties are classified under the Apricot Varieties node. (If this link is red, it means the category has not been added yet.) Click on the variety category link to navigate to the varieties.
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