PALISADE, Colo. — Cool conditions in Colorado that lasted well into springtime mean some summertime favorites are on a different schedule this year.
Peaches, cherries and other produce in Palisade got off to a later start than we have seen in other recent drier and warmer years. Palisade is a mountain town known for its peaches that's about a 230-mile drive west of Denver.
The first types of peaches are starting to show up at stands both in Palisade and across the state. The delay from the spring weather could make the season last even longer with peaches available longer than we have seen in recent years.
Cherries are still available at stands and stores this year just as the first round of peaches are starting to arrive. Other types of peaches will be available later this summer and could be available later than we have come to expect.
The delays in Palisade started in the spring
The first fruit to be picked in the orchards in the shadow of Mount Garfield, located near Palisade, are cherries. Typically by mid-July, most cherries are off the trees.
But this year, the trees are still loaded.
Branches are also bending on apricot-loaded trees in this region.
A few types of peaches reach their peak early in the season. They are usually ready to be picked and sold by July 4. This year, some growers around town said they didn't start to pick their peaches until July 6. The early varieties are already available to buy at stands around Palisade and are showing up at stands elsewhere. The later varieties that spend the most time on the trees will be available later than we have seen in recent years.
Unusual, but not unprecedented
The clash of seasons in the orchards may have thrown off picking schedules, but it is something growers in this region have come to expect.
In the last two years, they had to deal with extreme heat and extreme drought. Last year, for example, there were several 100-degree days in Grand Junction by the second week in July. This year, temperatures hit 100 degrees for the first time on July 16.
Families that have worked these orchards for decades know they have to work with the weather in Colorado. They know the time a peach needs on the tree can't be rushed, and stores and stands will just have to wait. Peaches need plenty of hot days and time spent under the leaves on those trees. That patience is rewarded with larger and sweeter fruit once it is ready to be picked.
The hot weather in recent years led to an early arrival of the late-season peaches. Some were ready before the calendar turned to August. Most of the fruit was off the trees before the town's Peachfest in mid-August.
The Palisade Peach Festival runs Aug. 15-18 and features a parade, ice cream social, a peach eating contest, car show and more.
This year, growers expect the peak of the harvest to happen as the festival gets underway.
For people who want to skip the crowds but still enjoy the peaches, a few growers said they may be picking them through Labor Day.
A chance to pick your own peaches
Peach stands selling fruit from Palisade are set up from the Front Range to the Western Slope.
A few of the orchards in Palisade will also let you pick your own.
Below are some of the U-Pick orchards you can find in Palisade:
Palisade Peach Shack
Green Barn Fruit Company
Fruit Basket Orchards
Getting Around Palisade
Growers have made it easy to track down the best crops in the area. A loop around Palisade will guide drivers to fields of fruit, lavender and vineyards that produce some of Colorado's best wines.
Many of the street names are in fractions and based on the miles in between these roads. After a few stops, the streets start to make more sense.
One tip is to pick up a map from one of the local merchants to plan out your stops along the way.
Whether you travel to Palisade, or wait for the peaches to show up on store shelves, the growers want you to know one thing: The wait (which could be a few extra weeks this year) will be worth it once the peaches are ready to be picked.
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