If they aren't already here, they will be in a matter of days.
Colorado peaches are something many of us wait for, even though others are available from Georgia and California. They're just not the same, lacking the taste, texture, the juiciness of their Colorado cousins.
August is prime peach month, and by mid-September they're just a delicious memory. So get them while you can. Local grocery stores should be well-stocked by now.
Kevin Kinsley, produce manager at Hy-Vee, West Circle Drive, says, "We fly right through them. They are the most sought-out of just about any seasonal food we have. In fact, a few weeks ago during a children's tour a little girl asked me when we would have Colorado peaches. Her mother wanted to know."
Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market, as a newcomer to town, will have them as well, as do other area markets.
Why are these peaches in a class of their own? Because of where they are grown. Most come from family-owned-and-run orchards in a fertile valley on the Western Slope between Grand Junction and Palisade, a prime growing area with mineral-rich soil and a perfect climate, warm days and cool nights. A high altitude of 4,800 feet also contributes. Not only do peaches thrive in that environment — so do apricots, apples, plums, cherries and pears. Think of it as fruit-growing heaven. Even so, it's peaches we are after now.
More good news is that this will be another record season, as the past few years have been. There were no damaging freezes, hard winds or pounding hail. Last year, more than 16,000 tons were harvested, and that is expected to be even higher this year. The state has more than 2,400 acres of peach orchards.
What distinguishes peaches from other fruit favorites is their unique flavor profile, a combination of sweetness and a little acidity. Food scientists say that some naturally occurring flavors are close to those of dairy, though subtle. (Is that why I love sliced peaches over cottage cheese?) A popular late summer dessert in Europe pairs peaches with blue cheese. Try it.
Actually there isn't anything peaches don't complement. Peaches can take the heat of a fresh salsa and stand up to baking spices like cloves and cinnamon as well as fresh berries. Add soft cheeses like brie and blue to the list.
They are great alongside grilled meats, add a little acid kick to a salad. (Add peaches and tomatoes for an interesting combination.) Don't forget the canning, like peach chutney and peach jam.
There's more: Try having some peach slices with a glass of Riesling or Proseco, a marriage made in heaven. Of the many ways there are to enjoy them, the most popular are in peach cobbler and peach pie. The biggest cobbler in the world is made in Georgia every August and measures 11 feet by 5 feet.
There really is no secret to choosing peaches. Look at the stem end, and if the skin is green near the area, it was picked green and left to ripen in transit. Take them home and let them ripen on the counter.
If the skin around the stem is yellow or red, the peach is ripe. Handle it carefully because they bruise easily. Also give them the sniff test — it should smell like a peach.
Colorado peaches are freestone where the peach easily separates from the pit. Clingstone peaches do not. There are those who don't care for the skin. To remove it, drop the peaches in simmering water for about 15 seconds, remove, cool, and the skin should slip right off.