The Difference Between a Peach and an Apricot
In the South, we love our peaches, which the region produces with pride. We can them, make them into preserves, and bake them in classic cobblers. A smaller, looking peach—the apricot—isn't grown locally and doesn't have the same cache as its Southern-favorite cousin, but it's a fruit to consider with its own unique characteristics you may want to try if your usual go-to is peaches.
By May, in-season, fresh apricots and peaches appear on supermarket shelves. Peach season runs May through mid-August, (but that also depends on where the peaches are grown!), while apricots have a shorter run, peaking from May through early July. Apricots look like baby peaches, and the two have a lot in common, but there are some differences to keep in mind when following recipes, as the two aren't necessarily interchangeable.
What Are the Similarities Between Peaches and Apricots?
Peaches and apricots are two different species, but they're both stone fruits, members of the genus Prunus, which means they have a rock-hard pit in the center, along with a few other similarities. Both have velvety skins, although peaches are more often fuzzy (and fuzzier) than most apricots. The color of their skins and flesh can range from champagne to vermillion, shades so gorgeous that we sometimes use their names to describe certain hues. Both peaches and apricots release their aroma when ripe and ready to enjoy. You might have to pick up an apricot and give it a sniff to pick up its subtle scent, whereas a bowl of ripe peaches can perfume the entire kitchen.
What Makes Peaches and Apricots Different?
There's also an important difference between the two when it comes to using them in recipes. Apricots tend to be sweet-tart and firm, while peaches are sweeter and juicier by nature. It's not that apricots aren't good to pick up and eat, but we're less like to need to lean over the sink to do so. This means that apricots and peaches are not necessarily interchangeable in recipes, mainly due to the difference in water content. We're more likely to have success using one in place of the other in uncooked recipes, such as smoothies, salads, and fruit salsas, but it's best to avoid making that swap in baked goods and cooked recipes.
When peaches are in season, you can find the freshest ones, while supporting the local economy, from orchards, u-pick farms, side-of-the-road stands, and farmers' markets. South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee all produce peaches in the South. There are thousands of peach varieties, but South Carolina, the second-ranking U.S. producer, and Georgia, the third-ranking U.S. producer, grow about 40 varieties of peaches.
There are three main types of peaches—clingstone (the pit clings to the flesh), freestone (the pit easily separates from the flesh), and semi-freestone (flesh clinging but easier to separate as it ripens). Flesh can be yellow, the classic peach we eat in the South, or white, a sweeter peach more common in Asia. Peaches are a good source of vitamin A and C, potassium, and fiber.
Peach cobbler, crisp, and pie are evergreen summer desserts in the South. There's always Southern Living's easy peach cobbler, or try this version that adds crystallized ginger for an added twist. Bring these fried peach hand pies to a picnic, or serve this peach pound cake from family-owned McLeod Farms in McBee, South Carolina, for afternoon tea or sweet selection for a brunch spread. For any of these desserts, peach ice cream makes a cooling accompaniment.
Peaches are great additions to salsa, height-of-summer salads, or try them grilled with arugula and feta, or with pork tenderloin and honey-mustard dressing. For something refreshing, sip on a peachy sangria or margarita or make a simple syrup to add to your cocktail of choice, meanwhile, kids will love these peach milkshakes.
Most of the apricots produced in the U.S. are from California—the 'Poppy,' 'Patterson,' 'Tilton,' and 'Castlebrite' are the most common varieties, along with the cherished 'Blenheim,' an heirloom variety. Like peaches, there are clingstone, freestone, and semi-freestone apricots. Apricots are high in vitamins A and C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber. They are light orange but can be more yellow or a deeper, warm orange, depending on the variety. While the fresh apricot season is short, dried apricots, mostly from Turkey, are commonly eaten as a snack and in baked goods, salads, tagines, glazes, sauces, and preserves.
Aside from apricots in crisps and crumbles, this Southern Living reader-submitted recipe, apple bourbon pie, uses apricot preserves, or make this apricot-almond coffee cake for breakfast or brunch. Apricots are a common ingredient in traditional, Morroccan tagines, and they also work well in Southern savory dishes featuring brisket, ham, or chicken.