Western Slope Peaches are at their Best Right Now
I’m thinking about moving to the Western Slope. Palisade is pretty inviting during the height of peach season.
Growers in Palisade have peaches ripening from the Fourth of July until mid-September. All through that time cherries, apples, pears and grapes are also in season. They actually have real seasons on the Western Slope. No winter one day, summer the next day even though the calendar says it’s spring.
Early season peaches that ripen in July include Red Haven and July Elberta. Mid-season varieties ripen in August. They include Sullivan, Blake and Globe. Late ripening varieties include Elberta, Redskin and Hale. They’ll ripen in early September.
Early and mid-season varieties are best eaten fresh. I can attest to that after slurping down a Blake freshly harvested at the orchard. The late varieties are best for canning or freezing. According to one grower, Redskin makes the prettiest canned peaches but Hale have the best flavor.
Peaches, like other fruit, ripen in different stages. Check them regularly for ripeness. A ripe peach has a creamy-yellow background color. The red blush on a peach varies by variety and isn’t a sign of ripeness. The peach should be moderately firm. A peach with a small bruise or finger mark is at its prime and ready to eat.
Peaches need air circulation to keep the longest. Don’t pack them into plastic bags. To keep peaches the longest, store them in the refrigerator in a shallow box. Keep them in one or two layers to aid air circulation. To finish the ripening, set peaches out on the counter for a few hours before eating. Peaches seem to have more flavor at room temperature.
Peach trees in Western Slope orchards are wide, sprawling trees. Each tree may only have six or eight branches to maximize fruit production. Upright, columnar peach trees are being researched. This new form would allow more trees and more fruit per acre.
If you have time, take a trip to the Western Slope for the freshest peaches. Or search out Colorado peaches at your closest farmer’s market.