Apricots (prunus armeniaca) belong to a large family of fruits including cherries, peaches and plums. While the fruit is native to China, it is cultivated in cool, dry, and temperate climes in most parts of Asia, Southern Europe, North Africa and certain regions of America. The American Pomological Society lists 11 main varieties of the fruit such as Riland, Tiltand, Blenheim, Royal and Chinese.
Come summer, and one can see the fruit and its cousins lining the pushcarts of any fruit seller in Pakistan as Apricots proliferate in the northern coller climes of the country. However, apricots can be used all the year round if preserved by canning, by using in jams, or even by drying them out. It is this latter aspect that carries various medicinal properties.
Considering that water content of the body diminishes rapidly during Ramadan, taking with it, important nutrients in our diet, which can make one feel light-headed and dizzy, dried apricots can be beneficial in more than one respect. They are important sources of iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin A and are high in natural sugar which is metabolized easily and is not harmful like artificial sugar. Moreover, they reduce feelings of thirst during the daytime when consumed at Sehri during Ramadan along with adequate amounts of water. The potassium in the fruit can help reduce electrolyte imbalance and ward off strokes
Local Hakeems prescribe the fruit to minister to the symptoms of constipation and for killing harmful bacteria in the stomach. People with acidity, piles or stomach ulcers may also find it helpful to have the fruit early in the morning they say. It is also prescribed to those who have fever. However, it is important that the dried apricots are sweet rather than sour as the sour variety may cause gases and consequently, a hard, swollen stomach.
Kernels of the fruit can be eaten raw or roasted. Make sure that they are sweet in taste
before consuming them, for a few varieties yield bitter kernels, which can be mildly poisonous until roasted. It is beneficial to eat no more than 8 – 10 kernels at a time.
In general, apricots are good for those on a diet, with 1 apricot containing approximately
17 calories. The fibre content is an added bonus.
Dried apricots also produce a wholesome and highly nutritious jam or halwa especially when put together with roasted kernels of the same.
* Box feature published in Daily DAWN Newspaper. Karachi, Pakistan.