is obtained from the fruits of the apricot tree. The origin of the apricot tree is in China. The Romans brought it to the mediterranean region. Since the 18th century the tree has been cultivated in the USA. The harvest in Europe is in July. The apricot tree reaches a hight of three to four meters. Its fruits are round and four to eight cm big. The fruits are light yellow to orange red. Its kernels are hard and ovally shaped. The oil content of the kernels is 40% to 50%. To obtain the apricot kernel oil the fruits must be picked and the fruit flesh must be removed. The remaining kernels must be cleaned, split and the seeds extracted. Finally the seeds get pressed. The obtained oil is light yellow to yellow, tastes and smells nutty, like marzipan. It has a high content of essential fatty acid residues, vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids.
Apricots (apricots, malete) are the stone fruits of the shrubby or arboreal species Prunus armeniaca. In the same genus Prunus of the rose family (Rosaceae), cherries, plums, almonds, sloes or peaches are also found. The round-crowned apricot trees hardly reach more than 6 meters in height and do not reach a great age. Even before leaf shoots appear on the older short shoots numerous single or paired flowers: 2.5 centimeters in size and white to pink. Its predominantly broad-ovate, toothed leaves taper into a point and sit on mostly red-overlaid stems.
The nearly spherical yellow-orange fruit with a longitudinal furrow and soft pubescence ripens to diameters of 4 to 8 centimeters. The reddish-yellow flesh encloses an oval stone that is easily detached when ripe, with a seed inside that is very similar to the almond (Prunus dulcis). Its taste is also almond-like, ranging from sweet in cultivated varieties to bitter in small wild forms. Depending on the variety, this fruity kernel is used to make persipan (the equivalent of marzipan), bitter almond oil or apricot kernel oil.
The area of origin of the apricot is still a subject of research today. New genetic studies show that there were apparently several independent and very long ago domestication events in Central Asia, China and Europe. The species name "armeniaca" was based on the assumption that the apricot originated in Armenia. Finds there proved that it had been used since the Copper Stone Age - several millennia BC. Today, neighboring Turkey is by far the world's largest apricot producer: of the 4.08 million metric tons of global harvest on 562,000 hectares in 2019, nearly 850,000 metric tons come from 131,000 hectares of plantation land in the eastern Anatolian province of Malatya. Uzbekistan (over 500,000 tons) and Iran follow, then Italy, Algeria, Spain, France and Afghanistan (both around 130,000 tons). There are also significant growing areas in Hungary, Austria and Switzerland.
Apricots are heat-loving, but as plants of the continental and dry steppes, they tolerate hot summers as well as winter temperatures down to -18 degrees Celsius. They bloom and ripen very early depending on the variety. Bees are the main pollinators of the nectar-rich apricot flowers ("bee pasture"). However, the blossoms are sensitive to frost and there is a risk of monilia rot if it rains. In Central Europe, the flowering period lasts from March to April, in the Mediterranean from February. There, harvesting on the plantations begins in May or earlier and continues until July/August. The harvest itself is done by hand in several passes, since the fruit does not ripen synchronously.
The oil obtained is still refined after pressing to be adjusted to desired properties.
Apricot seeds have an oil content of between 40 and 53 percent. Virgin apricot kernel oil pressed from them is golden yellow and its fatty acids are 99 percent bound in 8 different triglycerides. The variety-variable fatty acid pattern is notable for its high proportion of the omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid (C18:1, n=9), ranging from about 45 to over 70 percent. The second largest part (18 to 40 percent) is made up by the doubly unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid (C18:2, n=6), the saturated representatives palmitic acid (C16:0) 5 to 6 percent and stearic acid (C18:0) 1 percent. The iodine value hovers around 100. Vitamin A and carotenoids as well as vitamins of the B group and vitamin E (predominantly gamma-tocopherol) are added in relevant concentrations. Overall, apricot oil is similar to almond oil in composition, sensory properties and application possibilities and often replaces it.
High linoleic acid content leads to a pronounced oxidation tendency of the oil despite protection by naturally present tocopherols. Many unrefined variety oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids therefore become rancid very quickly and are demanding in processing and storage. Turkish apricot oils, with about 20 percent linoleic acid residues, tend to be less susceptible.
The main field of application is in cosmetics, where it is mainly used in refined form with loss of almond flavor but gain in stability. The nourishing and excellent moisture-retaining properties of the oil- and linoleic acid-rich triglycerides are valued for creams, shampoos and ointments. Apricot kernel oil is quickly absorbed into the skin, is soothing and only slightly comedogenic.
Overall, its use as an edible oil is quite rare and rather interesting from a gustatory point of view. Nutritionally, an excessively high intake of omega-6 fatty acids is now considered unfavorable in connection with chronic inflammatory diseases, as they are precursors of the inflammation-promoting arachidonic acid. Excessive consumption is therefore discouraged.
In traditional medicine, apricot kernel oil is used for gastritis, dermatitis, as a carminative and laxative, and against otitis media. Pharmacologically proven antimicrobial, antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties. Apricot kernel oil is by no means an essential, i.e. volatile, oil, as is often erroneously propagated. This is probably due to confusion with essential oils from extracts of Prunus armeniaca seeds. Pharmacological studies with extracts and/or their volatile oils indicate fungicidal effects against various skin fungi and experimental studies in rats indicate alleviating effects in colitis.
Bitter apricot kernels contain alarmingly high levels of the cyanogenic glycoside amygdalin. Per 100 grams of kernels, the seed's own emulsin enzymes break down up to 300 milligrams of toxic HCN (hydrogen cyanide) in the gastrointestinal tract. Together with benzaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide makes up the typical bitter almond flavor. In alternative medicine, amygdalin is referred to as an anticarcinogenic "vitamin B17". However, according to the Austrian Cochrane Society, there is no scientific evidence for such frequently described effects. The risks of poisoning, on the other hand, can be severe if consumed in an uncontrolled manner. Bitter apricot seeds are used in safe doses in persipan and as bitter almond flavoring. In virgin apricot kernel oil, at best only small traces remain; here, benzaldehyde dominates the aroma.