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Green apricots are unripe fruits, harvested before they begin to mature and develop their orange color. The light green colored fruits measure between 3 and 5 centimeters in diameter and have an elongated oval shape, with the characteristic indention running down its midline. The skin is covered with a velvety fuzz and the fruits are very firm. At the center of the pale green flesh is a soft central pit, the hard, outer endocarp having yet to fully develop. Green apricots have a bitter, acidic taste, with notes of almond.
Green apricots are available in the early spring and into the summer months.
Green apricots are the underripe fruits of Prunus armeniaca. Green apricots are used much like unripe peaches and fresh almonds and are more common in Persian, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. They are harvested during the early stages of fruit setting to ensure better quality fruit size and production. Unlike other fruit trees, such as citrus, that cyclically drop fruit all by themselves, apricot trees must be hand thinned. Using Green apricots is becoming more popular in the United States and Canada, where chefs are adding the immature, green fruits to their spring menus made into chutneys or the pickled umeboshi.
Green apricots contain the same basic nutritional content of the ripe fruits; however, they have less sugar content and fewer beneficial pigment producing compounds. They have a high pectin content and are a source of vitamins A and C, as well as B-complex vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium.
Green apricots are not typically eaten raw due to their overly tart and bitter flavor, however adding salt to raw fruits may help reduce the acrid or sour taste. It is recommended the fruits be poached or cooked prior to pitting to soften the flesh. They can be poached in a variety of liquids from simple syrup and water to beer or wine, with whole spices or other flavoring agents. Green apricots can be used to make jams or chutneys. Whole Green apricots are often pickled along with savory spices in the Middle East and India, just like green almonds or baby peaches, and offer flavors similar to that of an olive. Dishes that call for pickled Green apricots include tagines, lamb, poultry and other meat dishes, and salads. Pickled Green apricots can be added to crudité platters or enjoyed alone as a snack. Store Green apricots in the refrigerator for up to a week. Preserved or pickled Green apricots will keep for up to a year.
Green apricots are a more commonly sight at markets in the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iran or in Middle Eastern countries like Morocco. There, the immature fruits are harvested and sold at local markets or directly to restaurants. They are pickled in Turkey or used in Moroccan lamb or poultry tagines. In Southeastern Asia, Japanese apricots or ume, a related apricot species (Prunus mume), are grown for their unripe, green fruits (ripe fruits are still bitter and hard) and are pickled and used to make liquor.
Apricots are native to northwestern China, in the Tien Shan mountains, with secondary origins in the Caucasus mountain region. Cultivation of apricots dates back 3,000 in China. Over the centuries, the apricot spread eastward and westward with travelers along the Spice Route. Due to differentiation and cultivation in certain regions, apricots are placed into four different ecological and geographical groups: Central-Asian, Irano-Caucasian, European and Dzhungar- Zailij. Today, apricots are cultivated in Central Asia, in what is Pakistan, Armenia, and Turkey, India, central California and Florida in the United States, in southern Europe, South Africa and Australia. Green apricots are most likely spotted at farmer’s markets and in Middle Eastern markets in the United States. Outside of the United States they are most common in the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, Central Asia and India.