Archives For amygdalin

The bitter sweet apricot

February 19, 2013

There are many layers to the apricot kernel.
On the surface it’s the must-have ingredient to make your apricot jam set. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find sweet and bitter kernels, cyanide and cancer-curing remedies. Bet we have your attention now!
The kernel is the soft part inside the seed of the apricot. It is said to be a good source of iron, potassium and phosphorus, and one of the best sources of vitamin B17 (also known as amygdalin).

The Washington Post reported, ‘… It’s true that apricot pits contain rather hefty amounts of amygdalin and hence, of potential hydrogen cyanide. In order of decreasing amounts, the seeds of all the following fruits contain amygdalin: apricot, peach, plum, apple, almond and quince.’

Bitter kernels contain small traces of this hydrogen cyanide, which in large quantities may cause nausea, fever, headaches and coma. However, soaking the bitter kernels in water is said to reduce the bitterness and levels of amygdalin.

In small quantities, they are  used as a flavoring agent in jams, pastes, custards and other baking applications. Europeans often use them to enhance jams and jellies, putting a kernel is each jar, which isn’t normally consumed. Italians crush them to make the famous Amaretti di Saronno cookies, and Asian markets stock them in their spice aisles.

Some nutritionists recommend no more than one to five kernels a day, others suggest as many as 35 to reap the anti-cancer benefits. Wow! We’ll never look at an apricot kernel in the same way again!

Apricot stories posted on this blog in 2013 include – 19 January: jam recipe and 15 January: our first harvest