Peachy Keen on Palisade

The Real Deal: Peaches from Palisade, Colorado

Oh, those Colorado peaches. There’s nothing like them. I heard so much on national news this summer about South Carolina surpassing Georgia (in triple) as the peach capital of the United States, but nary a whisper about Colorado’s peaches. I waited until my recent trip back east—to North Carolina—to fully weigh in on America’s peaches. Well, just as I suspected, the south doesn’t have anything on what we have here in the Rockies. I’m talking about fat, flavorful peaches that explode with juice as soon as you slice into them. True peach enthusiasts bite into them and delight in their sweet nectar, a heavenly liquid that gushes out of your mouth and rolls down your chin until you wipe it off with the back of your hand, leaving only a wide grin behind. Those are our Colorado peaches, mostly from Palisade, a charming little town tucked between the Colorado River and red rocks, just outside of Grand Junction on the western slope.

I’ve been feasting on these peaches ever since I arrived in Colorado nearly ten years ago. I’d zoomed by Palisade many times on the Interstate without ever stopping. This summer though I made it my mission to check out the source of this delectable fruit, the provenance of so much of Colorado’s bounty including grapes, lots of other fine produce and more recently, lavender. Indeed, I discovered an air of Provence in this incredibly hot and arid climate, made lush by a vast array of irrigation systems, some dating back to when the first pioneers settled here about a hundred years ago.

My friend, Fran, and I scouted out the little town of Palisade first off since the day was waning and we wanted to suss out a good place for dinner. The shops were already closed by then, a welcome relief of sorts since we both felt that we could have dropped a bundle at A Peachful Place, a quaint and colorful little shop filled with vintage bric-a-brac and other random treasures. We stood in front of it, peered into its windows and drooled. Then we popped in next door at the Palisade Cafe and Grill to inquire about dinner. When we learned that they only had one piece of peach pie left and that they stopped serving at 8 p.m., we decided to inspect another dining establishment in town, the Red Rose Cafe. A peek in here assured us that we didn’t have to rush and that we’d be able to dine here after eight.

Orchards Backdropped by the Famous Book Cliffs

As much as we were charmed by the quaintness of Palisade—punctuated by wine barrels brimming with flowers—we were especially enamored with the Palisade Fruit & Wine Trail, a country road that winds through the orchards and vineyards. It felt as though we had found Colorado’s own little Napa Valley, albeit more rustic yet to me, just as enchanting in a western sort of way. Just off this bucolic route, we found the Dreamcatcher Bed and Breakfast, our destination for the night. Julie, a retired librarian who claimed her little wedge of paradise here a few years ago, greeted us with the warmth of a blazing Colorado sun. Instantly, Fran and I felt as though we’d landed in a country retreat. Still there was no time for dilly-dallying since this being the country, we knew the restaurants would be shuttered soon enough.

There was no peach pie at the Red Rose Cafe but Fran did seem to enjoy her chicken laden with an almond and peach sauce. I chose something more classic. We ate well although I think we were more taken by the old-fashioned decor and feel of this establishment than what was in our plates. I decided that next time I’d try the Palisade Cafe.

I woke up the next morning to Fran’s chatting with Julie. I often pass on B & Bs since sometimes I find the “closeness” of the B & B experience too invasive. But here with Julie, I felt right at home. So much so, in fact, that I came to breakfast in my pajamas and feasted on her delicious scrambled eggs, fruit of her morning’s tour through her chicken coop. Never had I tasted eggs so fresh. We talked and laughed over coffee and sliced peaches until it became time to move on.

Julie and Her Chickens

We hit a couple of farm stands, stocking up on peaches, peach salsa, peach jam, peach syrup and other homegrown and homespun goods until there was little room left in the car. We were tempted to check in on The Lavender Lady and Friends, a shop on Main Street in Palisade, where we were sure we’d do great damage but refrained.

We were already making our list for the next visit—this was just a reconnaissance trip. Yes, indeed there are many festivals to attend in Palisade beginning with the Lavender Festival in July, the Peach Festival in August and the Colorado Mountain Winefest in September. There are wineries to visit and bicycle rides to be enjoyed. Next time, too, I’ll fill up the car with produce, especially if I get in on the last big harvest of the season.

I’m sure fall is a lovely time in Palisade and I’ve been told that depending on the frost, they have peaches until early October. I might just get that peach pie after all.

A Palisade Tableau

Dream Catcher Bed and Breakfast, 3694 F Road, 970-464-9900

Palisade Cafe & Grill, W Third Street, 970-464-0657; open breakfast, lunch and dinner most days.

Red Rose Cafe, 235 Main Street, 970-464-7673

This year the Colorado Mountain Winefest begins today, September 15 and goes through Sunday, September 18. Go to Palisade Tourism and the Palisade Chamber of Commerce for more information.

Thank you to Jim Cox and Julie Commons for the above photos.

 
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