Apricot blessings

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The apricot, or Prunus armeniaca, is popular for its taste and fragrance.

The yellow fruit, which ripens between late March and the end of April, contains plenty of Vitamin A and fiber as well as vitamins C and B1, tannin, lycopene and pectin to stimulate oxygen transformation in cells, rejuvenate cells and thereby slow the aging process. Thanks to the abundant fiber content, apricots help prevent constipation and digestive diseases. They also quench thirst, and reduce sweating and thus salt loss from excessive perspiration. Apricots can be salted and dried, sugared, turned into a liqueur or syrup, or distilled for their medicinal qualities.

Here are several apricot remedies recommended by herbalists and doctors.

- An apricot beverage can be made with two kilograms of apricots, two kilograms of white sugar and a little salt. Be sure to buy apricots that are aromatic and just ripe, and reject any that are spoiled or show evidence of worm-infestation. Wash the fruit in water and place in a basket to dry, then soak it in salt water for two hours. Boil some water in a pot and allow cooling down to 30 degrees Celsius. Pour the water over the apricots and leave them in a cool, breezy place until they are almost dry. Now, put a layer of apricots at the bottom of a sterilized jar, sprinkle some sugar over them, then repeat the process until all the apricots are in the jar, and sprinkle some extra sugar on top for good measure. Seal the jar with a tight lid and let nature take its course. As the sugar dissolves, it draws the juice and fragrance from the apricots and leaves their skins yellow and shriveled. To make a healthy and refreshing drink, spoon out two apricots and put them in a glass along with a spoonful of the juice. Add a spoonful of sugar and use the spoon to mash the apricots. Top up the glass with water, stir well, and add some ice to make a drink that will quench any thirst.

Herbalist Pho Huu Duc from the Vietnam Oriental Medicine Association recommends drinking a glass of this beverage after spending time in the hot sun to cool the body and prevent sunstroke. When working hard in hot weather, you should drink apricot juice to combat fatigue and dry mouth, and reduce sweating and thus salt loss. For the same reasons, it's also ideal as a medicine for fever.

- For eating or treating illness, Duc recommends salting and drying apricots. Start off by placing some apricots in a cool place and leaving them until they are almost dry. Then put the fruit along with some salt in a jar at the ratio of one kilogram of apricots to 300g of salt. After 72 hours, the apricots can be removed from the jar and left again in a cool place until their skin is tightly wrinkled, almost twisted. Again, place them in a jar with salt in the same ratio. Do this six times until the apricot skins have completely shriveled and the salt has crystallized on the skin. They are now ready to eat and can be kept in a dry and cool place. The salted, dry apricots are commonly used for releasing sputum and easing a cough or sore throat.

- Salted dry apricots can also be eaten to stop dysentery, according to pharmacist Phan Quoc Dong. Dong says to place 100g of salted dry apricots, from which the seeds have been removed, in a pan to dry, then pound them into very small pieces. Mix 8g of the apricot pieces with boiled rice water for a healthy drink.

- To make a tasty alcoholic beverage, wash some apricots and place them in a basket to dry. When they are ready, put them in a clean jar to steep in alcohol at the ratio of one kilogram of apricots to one liter of 50-proof alcohol, then leave it for at least one month. Drinking 30-60ml of the apricot alcohol plus some water every day gives you a good appetite and quenches your thirst.

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