Apricots are the second most important non-citrus tree for the agricultural sector of the Region of Murcia, where 70% of the national production is harvested.
The fruit is originally from northern China. It is believed that it reached the West in ancient times, probably through Greece, around the 5th century BC. Later, around the 1st century BC, Rome expanded its cultivation, although like so many other delicacies, it reached the Iberian Peninsula thanks to the Muslims during the Middle Ages. They called it al-barcuq, which shows the origin of its name in Spanish.
In the mid-1970’s, five years before the Tajo-Segura Water Transfer, which promoted the cultivation of numerous species, the Region of Murcia was already producing around 70,000 tons of apricots per year; almost the same as in 2019, according to data from the Council of Agriculture.
Its use by the Region’s canning industry is already centenary; in fact, the take-off of the canning sector at the end of the 19th century in Vega del Segura was due to the characteristics of the famous Bulida variety, which was very appropriate for this industry.
Until just a couple of decades ago, canning absorbed more than two-thirds of the regional apricot production, but now the fruit’s use in jams or its canning in syrup are not as common, so the fruit has room to be consumed fresh, mainly outside of Spain.
For this reason, the Segura Center for Edaphology and Applied Biology (Cebas-CSIC) has been trying for a few years to improve the quality of the fruit intended for fresh consumption, testing new varieties, such as the Cebas red and the Primorosa, which should make it possible to reach the markets sooner.
The new fruits sprouted for the first time in the middle of last April, which “represents a revolution in the marketing of apricots, since the campaign usually starts at the end of that month,” said agronomist Jesús López Alcolea, head for agronomic management and transfer of varieties of the Cebas-CSIC fruit improvement group.