“...the only item of benefit that the Crusades had brought to Europe was the apricot.”

So says Andrey Hussey in Paris: The Secret History (2006), which I strongly recommend you read if you like Paris and a little history. Admittedly this quote is about as close as it comes to botany and Hussey is repeating here the opinion of "veteran French medievalist Jacques Le Goff".

If only to provide a little more rationale for running this quote on my blog, contrary to its botanical name, the apricot, Prunus armeniaca, was probably bred from wild stock in northeastern China rather than Armenia, some 4,000 years ago (although Wikipedia suggests India, about 3,000 years ago).

From China (or India) it eventually made its way to Europe, via Persia, to Italy around the time of the first botanic gardens, then to King Henry VIII's garden in the UK and later to California via Mexico. Presumably our apricots came across from London.

Anyway, it's here now and tastes great.


Tim Entwisle said…
The Apricot is a good example of how difficult it is to track down the origin of plants long grown in cultivation. I just found some notes I made some time back saying it had been in cultivation for 5,000 years (anyone want to make an offer of 6,000?), with early records from China, Persia and Armenia. In addition to the later valuable role of the Crusades, apparently Alexander the Great brought it to Greece, and General Lucullus to Rome...