Simply scrumptious peaches
Peaches, the sweet fruit of late summer. Taking a bite out of this tender fruit may send streams of juice down your chin and hands, but the sticky mess is worth the reward your taste buds receive in flavor. Luckily for us in Colorado, the peaches grown here are among the best in the world.
The peach, a common delicacy, has an interesting history. Peaches are a stone fruit and a member of the rose family. The fuzzy fruit originated in China, but was known well in Greece as early as 300 B.C. From there, the cultivation of peaches continued to spread around the world and today they are treasured in many different countries. In Hungary, they are considered a stress-reliever and called “the fruit of calmness.” In China, they are a symbol of good luck. But no matter where you find them, it is hard to beat a Colorado peach. Colorado is one of the top ten producers of peaches in the United States; the peak season here is from late July through mid September.
Why are Colorado peaches so special? The ideal climate in Colorado enhances the rich flavor and chin-dripping juice that makes peaches so delicious. Grown on the Western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the trees are spoiled with warm days, cool nights and water fresh from mountain snowmelt. However, perfect peaches don’t grow without hard work and a watchful eye. Peaches grow best in well-draining soil and full sun. They also need the perfect amount of water — too much might cause brown rot and kill the tree, too little and the peaches will no longer have the abundant juice loved by all. On average, mature peach trees need about 36 inches of water per year. Colorado receives about 15 inches of precipitation annually which means the soil is not too wet for peaches. In addition, like many other fruit trees, peach trees must be pruned each year to keep them healthy. Effective pruning helps the trees produce larger fruit and a more abundant crop over the long term. The best time to prune peach trees is in early spring, after the last major cold snap, but before the trees start blooming. Even in the perfect climate and under excellent care, there are many diseases that can negatively affect peach trees. Leaf curl, mildew and borer moths can all spread quickly from tree to tree. Being able to identify these diseases early, and treating them correctly, are crucial factors in maintaining a healthy orchard that will continue to produce a plentiful harvest for years to come.
BEST TO PICK YOUR OWN
Want something to do on a beautiful Colorado day? Go pick peaches! Peaches are best when they are allowed to ripen on the tree. However, since they bruise so easily, commercial businesses typically pick peaches green so that they survive transportation. By going to a peach orchard and picking your own, you can guarantee that you get the juiciest, sweetest peaches available. To choose the perfect peach, look for fruit that is yellow or red around the stem and yields slightly to gentle palm pressure. The good news is you can never have too many peaches. The list of what you can make with them is endless — from ice cream to cobbler to smoothies to salsa to jam. But none of these can beat the sensation of simply biting into a peach freshly picked off a tree. Simply scrumptious.
Laura Robison is a naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center. Fruit has been her favorite food ever since she was young and despite living in Colorado, she can never seem to get enough of the delicious peaches all around her.