With their unique velvety skin and tender, sweet flesh, apricots are a delicate fruit that has been enjoyed for centuries. They are often thought to have originated in Armenia, but there are also claims that apricots originally hail from India or possibly China. Despite the dispute over their country of origin, one thing is certain— apricots are now cherished and appreciated all over the world. In order for apricots to be enjoyed fresh in many areas, they must be cooled and stored using appropriate cooling and storage methods. Read on to discover more facts about apricots as well as the proper cooling and storage methods needed to help freshly deliver this delicious fruit all around the globe.
General Facts About Apricots
The scientific name for apricots, Prunus Armeniaca or “Armenian plum,” shadows the implication that apricots first originated in Armenia. Dried apricots were a valuable commodity in Persian trade routes of ancient times, and the Egyptians, who dry the fruit and then add a sweetener to make Ramadan apricot juice, have used them for centuries. Apricot trees are native to climates with a wide range of temperature variation, as they need cooler winters for dormancy and drier summers for proper fruit maturation.
Apricot trees are well known for producing popcorn-like bouquets of small flowers in the early spring before the leaves and fruit begin to grow. The single seeds or kernels that apricots produce are enclosed within a hard shell called a “stone.” Apricot kernels are often used to flavor liqueurs, cookies, and apricot jams, and if the kernels are a very sweet breed, they can also be used as substitutes for almonds in cooking and baking.
General Information About Cooling and Storing Apricots
Fresh apricots can be enjoyed even in areas where they are not typically produced because of proper harvesting, cooling, and storage of the fruit. Once picked, the quality of apricots cannot be improved, only maintained. Because of this, it is important to follow proper cooling and storage guidelines to guarantee safe delivery of the fruit to consumers as well as ensure maximum return on investment for growers.
Apricots should be gathered during the coolest time of the day, and kept shaded until the crop can be brought to storage facilities. Rapidly cooling the produce as soon as is reasonably possible can help to delay bacteria growth and further ripening of the fruit.
Apricots should be stored away from producers of ethylene, a natural hormone that is released by certain fruits and vegetables as they ripen, including apricots. Storing apricots with other ethylene producers, such as apples, peaches, pears or plums, or with damaged and diseased apricots, will increase the risk of the rest of the apricots ripening too quickly and thus possibly spoil the entire harvest.
Temperature – Apricots must be stored at very cold to freezing temperatures, ideally 32° F, to maintain their freshness.
Relative Humidity – Apricots are stored best at a relative humidity of 90-95%. While such a high humidity may encourage the growth of disease and bacteria, the very cold temperatures that apricots require, along with proper sanitation, can help reduce the chances of bacteria growth.
Shelf Life – Following harvest, apricots have a shelf life of 7-14 days if cooled and stored properly.
Methods of Cooling Apricots
In order to safeguard the freshness of ripe apricots, they must be cooled properly right after harvest. Apricots that are not cooled thoroughly can be easily bruised or the flesh torn, making them less appealing to shoppers. The best methods for cooling apricots are room cooling and hydrocooling.
Room Cooling – Placing the apricots in a room furnished with cooling units can help bring the apricots to an ideal storage temperature. Rooms that are being used specifically for cooling the apricots require larger refrigeration units than rooms that are only being used to store previously cooled fruit.
Hydrocooling – Submerging freshly picked apricots into cold water or pouring cold water directly over the fruit is an effective method of removing heat from the fruit quickly and safely. It can also function to help clean the fruit if a disinfectant is added to the water.
Semco works hard to help growers protect their harvest by manufacturing and installing quality cooling systems. Semco systems can be tailored directly to customer specifications, helping to ensure that a high quality crop equals fresh, quality produce on the tables of consumers.