Apricots are one of the earliest rock fruits ready for harvest, ripening at the beginning to middle of summer. The anticipation for those first apricots of summer may be shattered if you discover apricots that have a soft center, otherwise known as pit burn in apricots. What is pit burn and is there a remedy? Read on to learn more.
What is Apricot Pit Burn?
Apricot pit burn, also referred to as ‘stone burn' in apricots, is a when the flesh surrounding the apricot stone, or pit, browns and begins to soften. When caught early, fruit afflicted with pit burn is still edible as long as the fruit shows no signs of rot. In many commercial apricot groves, growers are replacing some traditionally grown older varieties that are susceptible to pit burn with newer proprietary cultivars less inclined towards the disorder.
What Causes Soft Apricot Pits?
Apricots have soft centers or pit burn due to high temperatures. If temps reach more than 100 degrees F. (37 C.) prior to harvest, they are susceptible to developing pit burn defect. Pit burn develops between the time the fruit is green and colored enough to harvest. The high temps cause the flesh surrounding the pit to ripen more rapidly than the rest of the fruit. None of this can be seen from the outside of the fruit. Drought conditions also play a role in what trees may be afflicted with pit burn. Apricots should have consistent moisture during a dry season to aid in cooling the tree. Although apricot trees flourish in Mediterranean climates with very hot days and little chance for frost, this tree needs well-draining, fertile soil with cooling and protection from hot, drying weather conditions. As mentioned above, many commercial growers of apricots have replaced trees with a tendency towards pit burn with newer resistant varieties. Some of the most likely candidates to develop pit burn are:
- Autumn Royal
- Tri Gem
Using a potassium-based fertilizer can make these trees less susceptible to pit burn defect. Don't plant apricots in regions where temps reach the triple digits, or you will likely get pit burn in the fruit. Be sure to keep the soil cool with adequate irrigation and aeration. Spray trees down to cool them if the weather becomes too hot. Use high nitrogen fertilizer as little as possible. High nitrogen foods make the tree more susceptible to developing pit burn.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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