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Fresh Picks: Peaches

Each week, we’ll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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Come August, when ripe peaches from the Western Slope roll into Denver, this juicy fruit becomes a staple in our diet. And by that we mean we gobble them up for breakfast, afternoon snacks, dessert—they even sneak into our evening cocktails. August is officially National Peach Month, so join in the festivities with these tips on what to look for and how to use this delectable (and only available for a limited time) fruit.

Peach | Family: Rosaceae

From the Farmer: “The peaches are going to be great this year,” says Heather Morton Burtness of Palisade’s Morton Organic Orchards. Even though she grew up eating loads of peaches, she still calls them her favorite fruit and jokes that she’s tried just about every peach recipe available. Noshing on a freshly picked one, though, can’t be beat. “Our philosophy is to pick fruit at the exact moment that we’d want to eat it,” she says, explaining that peaches, in general, don’t get sweeter after they’ve been picked. “Going for a soft fruit isn’t necessarily the key. Ask if the fruit has a high sugar content.” Early offerings are often “clingstone” fruit, meaning that the flesh doesn’t separate well from the pit. Now, “freestone” varieties are hitting the market, which are ideal for cooking, baking, and, of course, eating fresh.

Good for You: Thanks to a peach’s vitamin C level, eating this fruit can help keep your skin looking svelte (or, at least, repair some of the damage done by Colorado’s abundant sunshine).

At the Market: A perfectly round peach is nice to look at, but don’t ignore the imperfectly shaped “seconds,” which often taste just as sweet but don’t pass the visual test for roundness. What you want to pay particular attention to is the stem. “Make sure the stem of the fruit is small and has completely released from the fruit,” Morton Burtness says. “If it has a little bit of stem in it, it could be under ripe.” Another trick of the trade? If you want something to eat right away, look for a slightly bruised fruit. “Fruit heals itself with sugar when there is a blemish,” she says. “The tradeoff is that it doesn’t last long!”

Around Town: Carmine’s on Penn is hosting a Farmers Market Community Dinner on August 12 at 6 p.m. We got a sneak peak of the menu, which includes a peach cobbler with corn, which was last week’s Fresh Picks ingredient. If you can’t make the dinner, here’s the recipe to try at home:

Savory Peach and Sweet Corn Cobbler by Carmine’s on Penn Chef Daniel Grunewald

4 ears of Olathe sweet corn

4 Palisade peaches

1 yellow onion

1 glove of garlic

sprig of thyme

4 cups of fresh spinach

2 cups chicken stock

½ cup fine white polenta

salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup mascarpone

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the corn off the cobs. Dice the peaches and onion. Reserve onion in separate bowl. Mince the garlic and pick the thyme. Rough chop the spinach. Combine all in a bowl except onion and season with salt and pepper.

In a small stockpot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add polenta and salt and pepper. Reduce to a low simmer and cook till smooth. 10 to 15 minutes. Add mascarpone to polenta.

Heat large sauté pan with a bit of oil. Add onion first. Cook till soft. Add other ingredients from bowl and cook just till spinach wilts. Pour mixture into baking dish and top with the cooked polenta. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake in oven at 450° until cheese browns, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In Your Kitchen: When peaches are in season, consider purchaing a big box. You’ll find plenty of ways to use the fruit. We suggest that you portion out the box when you get home: save some for putting up in jars or freezing, sort out others for baking and cooking, and divvy out plenty for eating fresh. (Note: After this exercise, we often return to the market to get a box just for devouring raw.) At the height of peach season, our favorite way to use the fruit is in salads, such as this kale salad with peaches and corn or one with peaches, blueberries, goat cheese, and arugula. Oh, and don’t forget about using it in cocktails, like this grilled-peach Old-Fashioned.

From the Magazine: It is no secret that 5280 loves peaches. Our Environment issue, spotlighted peach producers and food editor Amanda M. Faison once put together a list of 31 ways to use the fruit. 5280: The Cookbook also includes several peach-inspired recipes, including chef Jennifer Jasinski’s Grilled Colorado Peaches with Cabrales Crostini and Pedro Ximénez Sherry (page 11).

Bonus: Ripe Colorado peaches are showing up on menus all over town: Lower48 Kitchen tops seasonal toast with pickled Palisades, house-made ricotta, fennel, and basil; Basta ladles a corn and peach chilled soup; and Farmer Girl (at the new Avanti Food & Beverage) sweetens up a pork salad with slices of the fresh fruit. At Central Bistro and Bar, peaches show up at the bar and on the dessert menu. Order the Palisade Promenade for a summery cocktail that combines rum, lemon juice, muddled peaches, and herbes de Provence simple syrup. And chef Matt Selby can’t get enough of the Peach “Good Humor” Bar with flourless white chocolate cake, peach semifreddo, and almond cake crunch.

 

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