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If you can’t snag one off the tree, farmers’ markets and roadside stands are your best bets for finding delicious peaches, says Rachel Crites, who oversees Denver-area operations for her family’s Palisade Peach Shack orchard. She explains how to make harvest season—which runs July through September—just, well, peachy.
1. The adage that green skin around the stem signals under-ripeness is only partially true. Although the saying is accurate for redder varieties, some, such as Elbertas, are naturally yellow-green.
2. Crites encourages customers to get handsy with her fruits. Ripe peaches are packed with juice, meaning they’ll feel softer (similar to a banana with the skin on) and heavier than their unripe siblings of similar size. Don’t squeeze too hard, though. The fruit bruises easily.
3. There’s no one Palisade peach. In fact, Palisade Peach Shack harvests 27 varieties throughout the season, so ask your vendors what they’re selling and shop around to find your favorite. Crites’ pick? The Flavorcrest, a freestone peach that, while juicy and flavorful, won’t create a mess when you bite into it.
4. Ask for a taste. While Denver and other municipalities ban the sampling of cut produce without sinks or other cleaning facilities, sellers at produce stands who trust their product will make it work. For example, Crites will give away whole peaches so buyers can sample her goods.
5. Some stands claiming to sell Palisade peaches actually carry cheaper counterfeits. Check the orchard listed on a stand’s boxes to be sure it’s in Palisade (though varieties grown in other Western Slope towns can be equally tasty), and expect to pay $4 to $5 per pound for class one peaches, the USDA’s highest grade.