If you live in Colorado, there’s no one who isn’t aware of – and takes pride in – the famous Palisade Peaches that are grown in our home state. Known for a sweetness and juiciness that’s unparalleled, many of us even know that, according to local radio ads, part of the reason they’re so good is because of the contrast between warm days and cool nights that help the sugars to develop. But what about the history of the town itself? How did the peach growing capital of Colorado come to be?
The Ute tribe (likely the Uncompahgre band of the Ute tribe) that lived in Grand Valley area were forcibly removed from their home in August of 1881, and the tribal lands they lived on immediately claimed by white immigrants. In 1882, John Harlow is attributed with planting the first garden in what the new white colonizers were calling “Palisade”, and while the vegetables and grains thrived in the nutrient rich soil, the fruit trees died due to limited rainfall in the area (a problem we’re all too familiar with in Colorado). The next year, new fruit trees were planted and this time fertilized with burnt bones and leached ashes, as well as watered with barrels hauled up from the nearby river. The young trees fared much better that year, and by 1894, those young trees had become established peach, pear, apple and grape orchards.
By 1886, Harlow’s farm was more successful than any others in the area. The farm continued to gain fame as he began winning awards for his fruit at various county fairs, and producing unheard of sizes of bumper crops. The peach trees in particular were so successful that the town began holding “Peach Days” in the late 1800s, a more formal version of the Palisade Peach Festival that is still celebrated yearly to this day. Peak peach season typically runs from late June through early-to-mid September, so get out there and enjoy some delicious Colorado peaches before summer passes us by!