Apricots - (Prunus armeniaca)
Native to China, the apricot is cultivated in all of Central and Southeast Asia and in parts of southern Europe and North and South Africa and the Americas . Apricots are propagated by budding on peach or apricot rootstocks, and the peach, plum, and apricot may be readily inter grafted. Most varieties withstand winter cold, but the blossom buds are frequently killed by late freezes. The trees are quite drought resistant and under favourable growing conditions are long-lived, some living 100 years or longer.
The apricot sets fruit after self pollination of its blossoms. The pit, or stone, is large, flat, and smooth. The fruit is nearly smooth, round to oblong in some varieties, somewhat flattened, and in general more like the peach in shape, but with little to no hairiness when ripe. Its flesh is typically a rich yellow to yellowish orange.
Marsanta’s Apricots are primarily sourced from Turkey. The main growing region for Turkish Apricots is in Malatya (central eastern Turkey).Culturally this region varies considerably from western regions of Turkey with an estimated 50% of the local population of Kurdish descent. Each year the acreage under Apricot production is increasing, resulting in some very large crops and subsequent historically low prices.
In Malatya the Apricot trees begin to flower in March. This period lasts for around 4-6 weeks. It is during this time that the crop is at risk of suffering losses due to overnight frosts. After the development of the early fruit the period of risk continues through until harvest time with the main dangers being hail or rain damage which causes red speckling of the fruit. The drying period after harvest is about seven days, with pitting of the fruit taking place after four days of drying; for sulphured material the total drying period is two days with pitting after just three days. Mostly fruit is dried in the orchards or at the small holdings of the growers.
The vast majority of fruit is preserved with Sulphur Dioxide by way of gassing in small sheds or chambers. This process is far from scientific resulting in varying So2 levels. In times of abundance, fruit may well be over sulphured in order to extend the shelf life. Sulphuring not only preserves, it also lightens and softens the apricot. Unsulphured and Organic fruit is a rather unappealing dark brown colour - sweeter in flavour but not as popular as the sulphured product.
After treatment with So2 the fruit returns to the golden yellow colour normally associated with fresh apricots. The flavour becomes slightly sharper; the fruit considerably softer - hence pitting is carried out after treating with So2 gas.
Each day in the market in Malatya, Apricots are bought and sold with the price recorded for all to see. This price, scribbled on a blackboard in central eastern Turkey, can effect Apricot prices world-wide within a matter of hours (as indeed can an overnight frost in the early spring, or torrential rain during the critical periods). After receipt at the factory the fruit is usually stored on specially prepared wooden floors awaiting pre-selection washing. The smell of So2 can be quite strong during washing. Further processing, including dicing, is undertaken at factories in both Malatya, and Izmir (on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast) prior to packing and shipment to export markets worldwide. The Apricot Old Market in Malatya - Eastern Turkey. Each day fruit is sold and prices recorded for all to see on the chalk board pictured here. These prices effect the Apricot market worldwide.