The Apricot

The apricot is a fruit similar to a small peach, from yellow to orange in colour. It was first cultivated in China about 5,000 years ago. Alexander the Great allegedly brought it to Greece and the Roman General Lucullus also exported some trees from Armenia to Europe. Apricots have been cultivated in Persia since antiquity, and dried ones were an important commodity on Persian trade routes. Apricots remain an important fruit in modern-day Iran.

Apricots seem to have disappeared from Europe after the Roman Empire, until Muslim Arabs re-introduced them from Asia to the Mediterranean especially in Spain and Italy when they ruled there. The apricot became a main crop in Italy under Muslim rule and after for centuries and spread from there to England. Most American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to USA and South America by the Spanish who got it from the Muslims. Muslim Turkey is the leading apricot producer annually in the world while Muslim countries account for 60% of the top apricot producing nations today.

The word apricot derives from Latin and Greek to the Arabic al-barqooq from which the English name eventually comes. The Spanish albaricoque is also adapted from Arabic, dating from the Muslim rule of Spain. In Argentina and Chile the word for apricot is damasco, which indicates that to the Spanish settlers of Argentina the fruit was associated with Damascus in Syria. A Turkish idiom used when something is the very best equates the item to a delicious apricot from Damascus. Apricot: yet another fruit for which the world has to thank Muslims for popularizing.