What you see: Brown speckles on your dried apricot
What it is: Natural variation on the apricot’s skin
Eat or toss: Eat!
Dried apricots come to us fully clothed. That is, processing companies dry them with their skins on; while they are sometimes sliced in half, they're not peeled.
And while many apricots sport a uniform orange color on their exteriors, some of them have variation on their skin, points out Craig Ledbetter, a research geneticist at the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center. The one pictured above was sporting some freckles, which were still visible after drying.
“There are lots of varieties that have a lot of red or blush on the skin,” said Ledbetter, whose research includes prunes, apricots and raisins. “Some of that blush might be a solid color, whereas in other varieties it might be what you see there as speckles. That’s just natural.”
You might also see larger, more irregular brown spots on apricots. Those could be evidence of hail or another injury from back in the orchard, but are also nothing to worry about.
The apricot pictured above came from a freshly opened bag of dried apricots. Those brown speckles are different from the dull, brown look dried apricots develop after too much time in storage. You’ll also see all-over dull browning in apricots that haven’t been treated with sulfur dioxide, which stalls natural browning reactions.
Finally, can you tell where the apricot pictured above is from? Ledbetter could. He immediately identified it as a Mediterranean apricot because (to his trained eye!) it was a whole, pitted apricot. The other major group of apricots comes from California, where they are sliced in half before drying. Cook’s Illustrated breaks down the differences in flavor and functionality of the two types here.
Craig A. Ledbetter, Res. Geneticist. San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center. Crop Diseases, Pests & Genetics
Sun-Maid Raisins & Dried Fruit. Chapter 5. P. 106-107. 2012.
Does Apricot Origin Matter? Cook’s Illustrated.