Palisade farmers weigh in with heavy crop of peaches

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Grower Robert Helmer, known as “Farmer Bob” in Palisade, shows a peach he said weighed 1.5 pounds when it was picked. It is just one of a number of large peaches that Helmer and other growers are talking about this year.

Farmers in Palisade have been producing some monster peaches this season, but Robert Helmer’s more than two decades in farming never produced the mammoth peach he now holds proudly.

The Cresthaven peach that came through the packing facility owned by Max and Sue Noland weighed a whopping 1.5 pounds, said Helmer, who goes by “Farmer Bob.”

“We should send this to the Georgia Peach Commission,”  Helmer joked, holding the peach that dwarfed his palm. “We could say, ‘Don’t you wish you could grow them like we do in Colorado?’” (Georgia) can’t grow them as big as we can.”

Indeed, some voluminous peaches, many weighing in around a pound, are being plucked from Palisade orchards.

Olivia Alire of Mt. Garfield Fruit & Vegetable, 3371 U.S. Highway 6, grabbed the biggest peach she could find Tuesday and weighed it. It came in at just under a pound, 0.96 ounces.

“The Cresthavens, O’Henry’s and Hales get big,” she said.

This season is churning out some of the biggest king-sized peaches that farm manager Tony Fernandez has seen. Fernandez, who works for High Country Orchards, 3548 E 1/2 Road, is kicking himself for not taking a picture of a peach that he said weighed more than two pounds.

“Oh man, I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I really could barely put it in my hand.”

How trees are pruned, the weather and the amount of water trees receive are responsible for a peach’s girth, he said. Late-season peaches, including varieties such as Coral Stars, Topaz, Cresthaven and Redhaven, tend to weigh on the heavy side, he said. Though they’re bigger, the peaches flavor doesn’t diminish as the fruit grows, he said.

“They can really be quality, nice peaches,” he said.

The latest record for the biggest peach, according to a contest by the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, came in at 1.14 pounds in 2007.

Helmer will hang onto his prize, showing it off for a while before savoring it. The peach weighed 1.5 pounds when picked, but had reduced to 1.31 pounds by Tuesday. Average-sized peaches weigh about a half-pound, he said.

The colossal peach would cost $3.28 at the Helmers’ stand, Alida’s Fruits, 3402 C 1/2 Road, where peaches sell for $2.50 a pound.

“We’ve had some giant ones, and I don’t know why,” Helmer said.


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