It’s a beloved hallmark of the changing weather: Palisade peach season. Every year, we look forward to finding these golden globes at farmer’s markets, in grocery stores, and on local menus in creative ways.
Fifteen-month-old Cash Clark Schmalz may look like any other toddler, grinning from ear to ear as he bites into a perfectly ripe Palisade peach, juice dripping down his chin. But Cash has big shoes to fill.
His family has been growing peaches in Palisade, Colorado, for six generations. James and Phoebe Clark migrated from Kansas to the Grand Valley on the Western Slope and grew their first peach trees in 1900. “They knew they’d found a slice of heaven,” says Cash’s grandfather, Dennis Clark.
Palisade’s high desert climate with its hot days and cool nights is perfect for bringing out the natural sugars in the peaches. From July through September, millions of peaches find their way into homes across the country. “It’s one of those items we produce in Colorado that consumers just clamor for,” says Wendy White, marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
In 2017, Colorado produced 10,750 tons of peaches with a value of $21 million, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And 90% of those sold came from Palisade.
For a journey back in time, take a long weekend and explore the charming town of Palisade and the surrounding Grand Valley. Linger at fruit stands and farmer’s markets, then meander through patchwork quilts of orchards and vineyards. Stay at quaint B&Bs and sample local cuisine, brimming with red-cheeked peaches.
Orchard tours are the best way to learn the history of the valley and see firsthand how the fruit grows. If you visit the Clark Family Orchards (clarkorchards.com), you can enjoy agritourism tours on horse-drawn wagons along their canals and orchards, followed by a sample of freshly churned peach ice cream.
Who knows, you may even see Cash toddling after his dad and grandfather through the orchards.
Palisade peach treats
On a hot summer day, nothing’s better than biting into a fresh, juicy peach, but this famous fruit prompts creativity in a variety of local makers.
Creamy, sweet, and bursting with fresh peach flavor, Noosa’s Palisade Peach Yoghurt is made in Bellvue, CO, and is nothing short of addictive. It’s available at grocery stores throughout Colorado.
Voted the best beer in Colorado by BeerAdvocate, this peach-flavored ale is aged in oak barrels. Released once a year, it’s brewed with more than three pounds of Flamecrest peaches, grown in Palisade. Contact Glenwood Springs’ Casey Brewing (caseybrewing.com) for availability.
Fowler Wine Company in Fowler, Colorado, produces fruit wines with up to a pound of fresh fruit in each bottle. Available at Sovereignty Wines.
THE PALISADE PEACH FESTIVAL
August 15–18, 2019
For the ultimate celebration of the iconic Palisade peach, take the entire family to the Palisade Peach Festival in Riverbend Park. Enjoy small-town charm at its finest with live music, vendors, kids’ activities, and a Sunday farmer’s market. Step back in time for an old-fashioned ice cream social, the crowning of the Peach Queen and her court, and a parade with floats and marching bands. Watch Colorado chefs demo their latest peach creations, complete with samples and recipes, then enjoy a BBQ Throwdown. Feeling lucky? Enter the peach-eating contest with separate categories for kids and adults. For festival info, 970-464-7458, palisadepeachfest.com.
Palisade Peach Bellini
Recipe courtesy of Andrew Combs, bar manager, The Warehouse
1.0 oz. ripe Palisade peach puree*
0.5 oz. Disaronno amaretto
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz. Calvados or apple brandy
Prosecco and garnish as you wish
Combine all ingredients, except prosecco and garnish, in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled champagne glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a sprig of saffron or tarragon or a lemon twist studded with cloves.
*If the peaches in your puree aren’t sweet and ripe yet, add 0.5 oz sugar syrup or to taste.
Warm Palisade Peach Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
Recipe courtesy of Whitney Van Scoten, pastry chef, Cliff House at Pikes Peak
4 lbs Palisade peaches (4–8 peaches), diced and pitted. Leave skin on if desired.
2½ cups sugar, white or brown
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup water
Cinnamon to taste
13 oz. rolled oats, ground
3 oz. all-purpose flour
9½ oz. sugar
2 tsp. salt
8½ oz. unsalted butter, melted
Cinnamon to taste
Preheat oven to 350°
Make the filling. Melt butter in a hot pan. Add peaches, sugar, and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, make a slurry with cold water and cornstarch. Add to the pan with the peaches, cooking until the mixture thickens. When mixture boils, take it off the heat and set it aside.
Make the crumb topping. Combine all dry ingredients until incorporated. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly.
Place peach mixture in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Cover with crumb topping.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream.
How to Pick the Perfect Palisade Peach
Check out the skin around the stem. If it’s green, the peach was picked green. These work best when a firmer peach is needed, especially for grilling. If the skin around the stem is yellow or red, the peach is ripe. If it yields too easily to pressure, it may bruise. In that case, pop it in your mouth right away!