Palisade Peaches: Delicious Colorado History

Colorado Proud - Palisade Peaches

Palisade peaches make the summer months in Colorado even juicier. Long days full of blue skies and Colorado sunshine, summer is a time to rejoice. With access to many warm-weather sports, it's a time to wear yourself out with outdoor fun. There's nothing better than a Palisade peach to complete the day. You will find these scrumptious peaches at roadside farm stands in Palisade and throughout Colorado. Don't be mistaken in the grocery store; if you don't see the 'Colorado Proud' sign, they're not Palisade peaches.

Palisade, Colorado

Where to Find Palisade Peaches

During harvest season, you’ll find Palisade Peaches pretty much everywhere you look. Roadside stands, typically under tents with distinctive signs proclaiming PALISADE PEACHES, can be found everywhere, from empty parking lots to beside gas stations to the side of a country road. You can also hit up your local farmer’s market, where you’ll most likely find at least one vendor hawking these delicious local fruits. And if all else fails, most Colorado grocery stores feature Palisade Peaches in their produce section during the summer, usually front and center, so you’ll have no trouble finding them.

Celebrate the 56th Annual Palisade Peach Festival August 16th – 17th, 2024 Purchase Tickets, More Info


Picking the Perfect Palisade Peach

Peaches are ripest when they get a little soft—there should be some give to the flesh, but make sure you’re not squeezing too hard, or you could bruise the fruit. A ripe peach is generally also very round, shouldn’t have any green tones left to its color, and might give off a faint, sweet aroma. If your peach isn’t quite ripe yet, that’s okay! Peaches will continue to ripen once you bring them home. Just place them on the counter away from direct sunlight, resting on their shoulders instead of on their bottoms. They should ripen up beautifully within a couple of days. You can also slow the ripening process by keeping your peaches in the fridge.

Pick Your Peach Farms

In a perfect world, we’d all have the opportunity to visit a Palisade Peach farm, wander through the orchards, and pick our own peaches. Local orchards like Green Acres U-Pick, Fruit Basket Orchards, and Green Barn Fruit Co. usually offer U-Pick experiences for peaches, berries, apples, lavender, and veggies. That said, even if you’re not taking fruit right off the tree, there’s more than one way to pick the perfect peach.

What's the Peach For

First of all, decide what you’re using your peaches for. If you’re looking to bite into a juicy peach as a snack, you’ll want to buy your peaches at a grocery store or buy “firsts” at a farmer’s market or fruit stand. Firsts are the best—the farmer's ripest, prettiest, best-for-fresh-eating fruit. They’re also the most expensive, so if you’re looking to use your peaches to make a cobbler, jam, or other products that don’t require the fruit to be completely intact. You might ask the farmer or stand worker about “seconds” or even “thirds.” Seconds and thirds are a fruit that doesn’t quite meet the standard—maybe it’s overripe, undersized, bruised, cracked, discolored, or doesn't look perfect. It’s not ideal for eating fresh, but this doesn’t mean it’s useless. Seconds and thirds are often just as delicious for eating as firsts. Moreover, they are usually great (and sometimes even better!) for baking, cooking, dehydrating, juicing, blending into smoothies, or even fermenting if peach wine is your thing. As a bonus, you can usually get them at a discounted price! A word to the wise, though—seconds and thirds typically end up getting scooped up in bulk pretty early in the day by those in the know, so if you’re looking to snag some from the farmer’s market or fruit stand, then set your alarm and get there early before they run out!

History of Palisade Peaches, Fruits and Produce

Colorado peaches are most famously grown in the town of Palisade, and they are known for being extra juicy and extra sweet, thanks to the long sunny days and cool summer nights in Colorado, which help all those delicious fruity sugars develop. Palisade Peaches has a long history as a Colorado classic, and it all starts with a man named John Harlow. After the Ute tribe was forcibly removed from their ancestral home in the Western Slope in 1881. Colonizers began developing a town known as Palisade. The farmers there quickly realized just how rich and nutrient-filled the soil was. Although, it was great for vegetables and grains. There wasn’t enough rainfall or water for fruit trees, which shriveled up and died quickly. But John Harlow, who planted some of the area’s earliest peach trees with his wife in 1882, was a determined man. He spearheaded a canal project to divert water from the Colorado River and irrigate the region, and though it took years for his project to come to fruition, it worked. By the beginning of the 20th century, more than twenty-five thousand pounds of peaches were being shipped yearly from Palisade to regions nationwide.

Irrigation and the Farming Boom in Palisade

Once they figured out irrigation, farmers began planting more fruits, like apples, pears, grapes, apricots, and cherries. Today, Palisade and the surrounding area are Colorado’s most famous and productive agricultural hub. Palisade is home to orchards, farms, and vineyards galore.

Annual Festival of Palisade Peaches

In the late 1800s, the Palisade community began holding an annual festival called ‘Peach Days,’ a celebration of the town’s most famous crop. Over the years, Peach Days, typically the second weekend in August, has continued and evolved into the Palisade Peach Festival—a yearly event full of music, activities, food, and, of course, peaches!

By Emily Krempholtz

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