Armenia is a mountainous country in the Caucasus. The climate is highland continental, which means that the country is subjected to hot summers and cold winters.Armenians have been growing apricot trees for over 3,000 years: apricot seeds have in fact been found during excavations near the Temple of Garni.There are several different tales about the origin of apricots, but one thing is certain: the cultivated apricot came to Europe through Armenia, allowing Armenia to be regarded as the country where the apricot was domesticated.The word ‘apricot’ has a long history. The Romans gave to the apricot the name of Armenian apple. This name survived in botany: Prunus armeniaca or Armeniaca vulgaris.The Armenian apricots are represented by several local varieties, some of which can be found only in specific regions of Armenia: Shalakh, Novrast krasnyj, Khosrovshay, Tabarza, Karmir Nakhidhevani, Bedem-Erik, Abutalini, Spitak, etc.Shalakh (meaning ‘pineapple’ in Armenian, also called Yerevani) apricot is the symbol of Armenia. Harmonious combination of sugar content and acidity and a strong pleasant aroma of pineapple gave the variety its name. The fruits generally weigh 80-100 g, they are yellow with a slight blush on the side exposed to the sunlight and have a round-oblong shape. Their skin is thin, coarse, somewhat fluffy and matte, with a bright, golden-yellow colour. The pulp is tender, very juicy, dense and creamy, with prominent white veins in the form of hairs and a golden hue. The taste is very nice, sweet, delicate and barely perceptibly tart (contains an average of 11.3% sugar, acidity of about 0.63%).The fruits ripen in the first decade of July. The trees of Shalakh variety are vigorous, resistant to sunburn and cold in winter, accustomed to the dry hillsides of Ararat valley.In Armenia they are characterized by a high and regular productivity. The trees are strong; there are some 70-year-old trees in the gardens of Yerevan with a still satisfactory yield. In the period of maximum fruiting the average yield is not less than 100-200 kg per tree, with some of the most powerful trees producing up to 300-400 kg, but there are also records of one tree that even arrived to 700 kg.There is a very small production. Traditionally each family had a couple of trees that gave enough fruit for its members.Pure Shalakh apricots can be occasionally found in the local markets, sold by the farmers. Apricots sold at the national and international markets called ‘apricots from Armenia’ are usually called Shalakh but these are mainly hybrids of Shalakh.Shalakh apricots are mostly consumed fresh, still they are also good for making preserves, jams (maraba in Armenian) and compotes due to their size, compact texture and taste characteristics. Like all other apricots, Shalakh is also dried or used for preparing distillates.
Image: Archivio Slow Food