In Malatya, apricot is harvested in July. The soil is covered with plastic covers and the trees are vibrated so the fruits drop onto the covers. Fruits are gathered into containers and carried to the drying area. Apricot fruit profoundly changes its color during the drying process. Fruits are dried either without any treatments or after sulfur dioxide treatments. The sulfuring process not only keeps the color of apricot during drying but also avoids pest damage during storage. The fresh fruits are placed in wooden containers (90 x 180 cm); and the containers are kept in the sulfuring room for 8 to 12 hours. The ideal sulfuring rooms (2.5 x 2.5 x 2.2 m height) have walls of 30 cm thick, which are either brick or reinforced concrete. The airproof door of the sulfuring room is 110 cm in width and 200 cm in height. It is possible to treat 1,200-1,500 kg fresh apricots at once in each room. In the elemental sulfur method, sulfur is heated to form sulfur dioxide. For each 1,000 kg of fresh fruit 2-3 kg of sulfur is applied. Alternatives include liquid forms of sulfur such as sodium metabisulfite, sodium sulfite, or pure sulfur gas. There is
no need for heating when sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite is used, since they are well dissolved in aqueous solutions. When sulfur gas is used, pre-heating of sulfuring room helps fruits to take up sulfur dioxide better. In Malatya apricot growers, however, prefer the elemental sulfur method. After the sulfuring, the fruits are placed in containers under direct sunlight and pits are removed by hand by squeezing each fruit. During the sun-drying process, water content drops to 20-25%.
Sulfuring is an integral part of the dried apricot industry. There are no known harmful effects of
the sulfuring process on human health except for asthmatics. However, European Union Regulation restricts the amount of sulfur in dry apricot to 2000 ppm; the limit is 2500 ppm in Canada and 3000 ppm in the US. Sulfur treatment keeps apricots yellow and is necessary to preserve the dried product for an extended period of time.