1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Apricot

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APRICOT (from the Lat. praecox, or praecoquus, ripened early, coquere, to cook, or ripen; the English form, formerly “apricock” and “abrecox,” comes through the Fr. abricot, from the Span. albaricoque, which was an adaptation of the Arabic al-burquk, itself a rendering of the late Gr. πρεκόκκια or πραικόκιον, adapted from the Latin; the derivation from in aprico coctus is a mere guess), the fruit of Prunus armeniaca, also called Armeniaca vulgaris. Under the former name it is regarded as a species of the genus to which the plums belong, the latter establishes it as a distinct genus of the natural order Rosaceae. The apricot is, like the plum, a stone fruit, cultivated generally throughout temperate regions, and used chiefly in the form of preserves and in tarts. The tree has long been cultivated in Armenia (hence the name Armeniaca); it is a native of north China and other parts of temperate Asia. It flowers very early in the season, and is a hardy tree, but the fruit will scarcely ripen in Britain unless the tree is trained against a wall. A great number of varieties of the apricot, as of most cultivated fruits, are distinguished by cultivators. The kernels of several varieties are edible, and in Egypt those of the Musch-Musch variety form a considerable article of commerce. The French liqueur Eau de noyaux is prepared from bitter apricot kernels. Large quantities of fruit are imported from France into the United Kingdom.

The apricot is propagated by budding on the mussel or common plum stock. The tree succeeds in good well-drained loamy soil, rather light than heavy. It is usually grown as a wall tree, the east and west aspects being preferred to the south, which induces mealiness in the fruit, though in Scotland the best aspects are necessary. The most usual and best mode of training is the fan method. The fruit is produced on shoots of the preceding year, and on small close spurs formed on the two-year-old wood. The trees should be planted about 20 ft. apart. The summer pruning should begin early in June, at which period all the irregular foreright and useless shoots are pinched off; and, shortly afterwards, those which remain are fastened to the wall. At the winter pruning all branches not duly furnished with spurs and fruit buds are removed. The young bearing shoots are moderately pruned at the points, care being, however, taken to leave a terminal shoot or leader to each branch. The most common error in the pruning of apricots is laying in the bearing shoots too thickly; the branches naturally diverge in fan training, and when they extend so as to be about 15 in. apart, a fresh branch should be laid in, to be again subdivided as required. The blossoms of the apricot open early in spring, but are more hardy than those of the peach; the same means of protection when necessary may be employed for both. If the fruit sets too numerously, it is thinned out in June and in the beginning of July, the later thinnings being used for tarts. In the south of England, where the soil is suitable, the hardier sorts of apricot, as the Breda and Brussels, bear well as standard trees in favourable seasons. In such cases the trees may be planted from 20 to 25 ft. apart.

The ripening of the fruit of the apricot is accelerated by culture under glass, the trees being either planted out like peaches or grown in pots on the orchard-house system. They must be very gently excited, since they naturally bloom when the spring temperature is comparatively low. At first a maximum of 40° only must be permitted; after two or three weeks it may be raised to 45°, and later on to 50° and 55°, and thus continued till the trees are in flower, air being freely admitted, and the minimum or night temperature ranging from 40° to 45°. After the fruit is set the temperature should be gradually raised, being kept higher in clear weather than in dull. When the fruit has stoned, the temperature may be raised to 60° or 65° by day and 60° by night; and for ripening off it may be allowed to reach 70° or 80° by sun heat.

The Moorpark is one of the best and most useful sorts in cultivation, and should be planted for all general purposes; the Peach is a very similar variety, not quite identical; and the Hemskerk is also similar, but hardier. The Large Early, which ripens in the end of July and beginning of August, and the Kaisha, a sweet-kernelled variety, which ripens in the middle of August, are also to be recommended. For standard trees in favourable localities the Breda and Brussels may be added.