Each fall, delicious Palisade peaches show up at grocery stores, roadside stands and Colorado farmers markets.
Locals will tell you Palisade peaches are the best, simply because they’re ripe, sweet and loaded with chin-dripping juice. Grand Junction's hot days and cool nights are perfect for bringing out the natural sugars in the peaches and growing big fruit. In comparison, peaches from other areas, such as California, seem invariably dry, mealy and tart because they must be picked green to survive traveling and won’t develop any more sugar once they are picked.
Two varieties of peaches grace local stands: early season cling peaches and freestones. The names “cling” and “freestone” refer to the peach pits and mean what they sound like. A “cling” peach will stick to the pit and a “freestone” is not so securely attached, particularly when they are fully ripe. Freestones are larger, juicier, sweeter and easier to work with in the kitchen since the pit pops right out of a ripe peach.
To select the perfect Palisade peach look first around the stem. If the skin is green near the stem the peach was picked green. Use these for recipes where a firmer peach is needed, such as grilling. If the skin around the stem is yellow or red then the peach is ripe. If it yields easily to pressure then it is very ripe and will bruise easily. These peaches must be handled with care and are perfect for eating right away. Fresh peaches should be available until the first or second week of September.
Don’t miss the Palisade Peach Festival in August, featuring live music, chef demos, a peach eating contest, and lots of peach tasting. It’s a lot of fun and a chance to take a box of sweet, Colorado mountain sunshine home with you.