Ah, peach season. When the days get shorter, the nights cool off, and kids are back in school, there’s nothing that screams “end of summer” quite so deliciously as a fresh, juicy peach devoured over the kitchen sink. Now that peaches are back in season, it’s time to buy a box, grab those paper towels, and savor the last remnants of summer.

What Makes Palisade Peaches So Incredible?

If you’ve ever eaten a Palisade peach, you’ve likely argued with someone from Georgia about how the best peaches in the world are grown in our backyard, rather than in the Peach State. They’re juicy, tender, perfectly sweet, and sometimes big enough to be a meal on their own. But what makes them so good? A perfect combination of factors, according to Bruce Talbott, co-owner of Talbott Farms, which has been growing peaches in Palisade for over 100 years.

“The uniqueness of this place is that we have drainage winds that come out of the mountains at night,” he says. “So at about midnight, the wind starts blowing from the east at 10 miles per hour, until about 10 a.m. the next day.” Talbott says these winds blow cold air into the lower end of the valley, meaning Palisade is generally 10 degrees warmer than their neighbors. “Ten degrees is the difference between a viable industry and not having one,” he says.

Talbott also says that peaches love sunlight and rich soils—both of which Palisade has in abundance. The temperature swings between hot days and cool nights also help build flavor, resulting in a sweeter, more delicious peach. The final factor, Talbott says, is the growing culture and consumer culture in Colorado.

“We’re pushing peaches as ripe as we can possibly get them and still handle them,” he says. “When you go to California and see what they’re doing, it’s not even a factor because they’re not letting them get anywhere near that ripe.” After Palisade peaches are picked at their ripest from the trees, the fruit is rushed to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and food stands, ensuring that if you shop local, you’ll get the ripest peaches around.

“Peaches coming from some other areas, you can take a week, two weeks to sell them and they will never be as good,” Talbott says. “We’ve built an industry and a reputation around that ready-to-eat or near-ready-to-eat peach—that’s why we’re here.”

Meet the Growers

Growers have faced challenges during the 2021 growing season, especially with transportation difficulties due to the recent damage and reconstruction efforts on I-70. Talbott also says they experienced an early freeze last October that damaged many of their trees, and he plans to replant about 10,000 peach trees in the seasons ahead.

Talbott’s farm started producing fruit in 1907. Today, his operation spans about 500 acres and is home to about 200,000 peach trees, in addition to grapevines and cherry trees. He says he’s a “locavore” himself, and it’s humbling to provide local produce to local consumers. “We need people to come back again and again, and we need those experiences to be good,” he says. “We’re not a low-cost area. Our labor is higher, our weather is more challenging; so we need it to be something people really appreciate and support, and we do appreciate the support we’ve historically gotten from the rest of Colorado.”

Peaches & Dream toast from Whole Sol
Peaches & Dream toast from Whole Sol. Photo courtesy of Whole Sol

Peaches & Dream Toast Recipe From Whole Sol:

Palisade peaches are tasty as is, but if you want to dress them up, try this recipe from Whole Sol Blend Bar, with locations in Denver and Boulder. Talbott estimates that peach season will end around September 20, so it’s a great time to buy a box and have fun in the kitchen.

For the toast:
2 slices of Kim and Jake’s Gluten-Free Peasant Loaf, or your bread of choice

1 Palisade peach, sliced or chopped
Balsamic glaze
3–4 Basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

For the lemon cashew cream:
4 cups of cashews
2 cups water
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves (medium)
2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup lemon juice

Blend all ingredients for the lemon cashew cream together until smooth. Toast the slices of bread and spread 1 tablespoon of lemon cashew cream on each slice of toast. Place peaches on top of toast and top with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, a dash of salt and pepper, and basil to taste.

Riane Menardi Morrison
Riane Menardi Morrison
Riane is 5280’s former digital strategy editor and assistant food editor. She writes food and culture content. Follow her at @riane__eats.