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Apricot (in scientific literature- Prunus Armeniaca) – Armenian symbol of nationality and victory

January 15, 2014

An Armenian stamp featuring the apricot.

An Armenian stamp featuring the apricot.

“The apricot is an important fruit for Armenians. It is almost sacred; it is even revered.
Historically, in the third century BC, Akkadians called the apricot “armanu” (meaning Armenian), and Armenia “Armani”. One of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, Arameans, called the apricot tree “Khazura Armenia” (the tree of the Armenian apple). After fighting Armenian King Tigranes the Great in the first century BC, Roman general Lucullus took several apricot saplings from Armenia to Rome. The Romans planted those saplings in their city and called the fruit the “Armenian plum” (Prunus Armeniaca).

2031723453_c62a1c8417_zThe plant spread all over Europe from Rome. For example, De Poerderlé, writing in the 18th century, asserted, “Cet arbre tire son nom de l’Arménie, province d’Asie, d’où il est originaire et d’où il fut porté en Europe …” (“this tree takes its name from Armenia, province of Asia, where it is native, and whence it was brought to Europe …”). An archaeological excavation at Garni in Armenia found apricot seeds in an Eneolithic-era site.

The scientific name armeniaca was first used by Gaspard Bauhin in his Pinax Theatri Botanici (page 442), referring to the species as Mala armeniaca “Armenian apple”. It is sometimes stated that this came from Pliny the Elder, but it was not used by Pliny. Linnaeus took up Bauhin’s epithet in the first edition of his Species Plantarum in 1753.  

The name apricot is probably derived from a tree mentioned as praecocia by Pliny. Pliny says “We give the name of apples (mala) … to peaches (persica) and pomegranates (granata) …” Later in the same section he states “The Asiatic peach ripens at the end of autumn, though an early variety (praecocia) ripens in summer – these were discovered within the last thirty years …”.

In fact, evidence of apricots in Armenia far predates Pliny. According to CWR, the ongoing project to document and preserve Armenia’s native wild crops, the Chinese cite references to apricots in their literature going back 4,000 years. But apricot pits have been excavated near Garni and Yerevan dating back 6,000 years; thus CWR concludes, “We can see the cultivation of apricots in Armenia is 2000 years older than China”.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a leading botanist in the 18th century, finally decided that this fruit was not a type of plum, but a new species, and called it “Armeniaca vulgaris.” In the 12th century, thanks to Ibn al-Awwam, apricot took an Arabic name: “tufah al Armani” (Armenian apple). Today, in scientific literature, apricot’s Latin name remains “Prunus Armeniaca”.

Ingredients:     apricots, carrots, cumin, onion, red lentils, salt Instructions: Keep refrigerated until use. Serve cold or remove from bag and heat to 165 degrees within 2 hours. Reheat only once.

apricots, carrots, cumin, onion, red lentils, salt
Keep refrigerated until use. Serve cold or remove from bag and heat to 165 degrees within 2 hours. Reheat only once.

The same source notes that the apricot tree has been celebrated in Armenian literature since ancient times and that the Armenian word for apricot (tsiran) appears to be of Armenian origin and is found in the Armenian translation of the Bible.

What interests us most of all, of course, is how universally apricots are found on the Armenian table. Virtually every variant of Armenian cuisine includes a litany of apricot recipes. We boil them into jellies, jams, marmalade and compotes. We stew them with lamb or chicken. We steep them in pilafs and stuff them in meats.

The apricot has been the symbol of nationality and victory for Armenians for many centuries. In the Middle Ages, Armenian kings and knights would go to battle wearing apricot-colored ornaments called “tsirani.” One of the three colors of the tri-color Armenian flag is also the color of the apricot. Every year in July in Armenia, during the harvest of apricots an apricot festival is held.

imagesPeople from different villages and towns bring to the capital of the country apricots from their own gardens in straw baskets, dried apricots, alcoholic beverages made of apricots, and many many other foods and drinks made from the richest apricots. People cheer on their cleverness and treat others to their homemade food. This is a national trait – treating others and being happy when others like the food. For one whole day the Armenian land, its waters, and their fruit – the apricot, are being praised and celebrated.

In Armenia, the wood of the apricot tree is used for making wood carvings such as the duduk, which is a popular wind instrument in Armenia and is also called the apricot pipe. Several hand-made souvenirs are also made from the apricot wood.

According to Alin Ozinian article and my research


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  1. Apricots | Notes from the Mill House

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