The apricot (Prunus armeniaca) is a small (8-12 meters tall) fruit tree in the plum family that is native to China and India, but has spread worldwide within its growing conditions. The fruit of this tree (also called an apricot) is techincally a drupe, like the olive, coffee bean, cherry, mango and coconut. Apricots are commoinly considered to be "stone fruit", and resemble smaller versions of the peach.
The apricot is an ancient fruit, thought to have been domesticated as early as 3,000 BCE. The Mediterranean is now the center of worldwide apricot production, with Turkey, Iran, and Italy the top three growers. In the United States, California, Washington and Utah make up the bulk of production. Apricots can be eaten out of hand, used in fruit salads, jams or salsas, or dried to preserve them.
Apricots trees are commonly grafted onto the rootstocks of peaches or plums. Apricots can hybridize with other members of the plum family to make pluots, apriums, or plumcots (depending on what percentage makes up the hybrid).
The fruit itself is orange-yellow in color, and may be covered with very fine hairs or fuzz. While they are very sweet, apricots have little juice. They tend to smell and taste like a cross between an orange and a peach, and are high in fiber and carotenoids. The pit of the apricot has traditionally been used to flavor baked goods with an intriguing almond aroma and flavor -- Italian amaretti cookies typically have a small amount of ground apricot pits added to them. Amaretto is also flavored with apricot pit extract.
The pits can be pressed to release an oil with the strong aroma of bitter almonds due to their concentration (between 2 and 2.4%) of hydrogen cyanide. As with all stone fruit, care should be taken in extracting pits into alcohol.