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Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Guide to Colorado’s Fruit Season – From Peaches to Apples, Melons and Berries

Colorado Cherry Company co-owner Elias Lehrte is busy making pies with several of his bakers in Denver on July 18. Lehrte has a special recipe for peach pie, which is great for the start of Colorado peach season. (Photo by Kathryn Scott, exclusive to The Denver Post)

A century ago, Montmorency cherries were a cash crop in Loveland, Colo. Today, Colorado Cherry Company co-owner Elias Lehrte says the name of his fourth-generation family business may be confusing to some.

“(cherries) are not really grown on a large scale in Colorado anymore,” lamented Lehrte.

At the height of every fruit pie season, Lehrte and his family are searching the state for locally grown cherries, but they will often end up sourcing primarily from Utah and from as far away as Michigan.

Amy Kafka, owner of Garden Suites in Fort Collins, agreed, saying, “When you’ve got good Colorado cherries, get them and get them fast.”

Fruits ranging from strawberries to raspberries, melons and apples are nearing the August-September harvest on Kafka’s 10-acre farm. She and her family invite visitors every summer and fall to choose their own, whether for making pies at home or just for snacking.

Pans of sour cherries sit ready as bakers Lauren Howell, right, and Sarah Banks prepare Strawberry Rhubarb Pie on July 18 in Denver. (Photo by Kathryn Scott, exclusive to The Denver Post)

“Strawberries and raspberries grow really well here; The bright sun and cool nights contribute to their wonderful taste,” Kafka said, “Our season is a little later than many people expect … Strawberries take a vacation in July, because they don’t like the heat. “

While the berries are on vacation in the middle of summer, Colorado peaches are hanging heavily on their branches, ready for harvest. Picking and shipping are already underway from the Western Slope in places like Balustrade and Hotchkiss.

And even though Delta County was hit with a sudden frost last October, “as an industry, we’re probably looking at 70-80% of our normal crop yield,” explained Harrison Top of the Top Fruits in Hotchkiss.

“This is a situation where we won’t have a hard time selling what we’ve got, luckily,” he said.

The Colorado Cherry Company’s Tennyson Street shop features large windows with kitchen views so customers can watch the bakers work. (Photo by Kathryn Scott, exclusive to The Denver Post)

Top Fruits will ship some of its peaches to the Colorado Cherry Company for pies and cobblers. Otherwise, shoppers will find those peaches and apples — and in better years, plums and cherries — through CSAs at markets and in the region.

“I think this year there were about two[growers]who had about 100 pounds of cherries,” said Top of the cherry industry in Colorado.

But over the next weeks and months other fruits will be available at most small farm stands, but also from big box grocers.

“While I think many of us take great pride in the various unique brands from our farms, collectively as a group we all work together to maintain a reputation for quality for Colorado fruits, said Top.

Just don’t get your hopes up about those Colorado cherries.

If you still want to taste cherry cider, jam, pie and other products created In Colorado, however, you’ll find original 1960s cabins in Denver, Leon, Lehnert’s shops in Estes Park, and along Highway 34 in Loveland.

Elias and Rachel Lehnert shop at their bakery and Tennyson Street on July 18 in Denver. (Photo by Kathryn Scott, exclusive to The Denver Post)

Here you’ll see some of the best homegrown fruits in Colorado at farms, at markets, and on grocery shelves:

Cherry – from the end of June to July (good luck)

Peaches – starting mid to late July

Cantaloupe (Rocky Ford) – mid-July to late July

Strawberries – Starting in August

Raspberry – Starting in September

Apples – September to October

more: 14 Select Farms and Orchards Around Colorado


This peach pie can be cut up and served hot. (Photo by Kathryn Scott, exclusive to The Denver Post)

How to make Peach Pie Cobbler

The Lehnert family is known for cherry products, yes, but also for pies of all kinds, from savory and breakfast to sweet and seasonal, filled with rhubarb, peach or apple. Here’s his take on a peach pie-cobbler (with a bottom crust).

essential commodities

  • 3 small bowls
  • Roller
  • color
  • Pie Baking Dish (8-10 inch)

material

lower crust

  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water

peach filling

  • 1 pound, 6 oz. Peaches (5-6 good sized peaches)
  • 1 pound, 6 oz. Peaches (5-6 good sized peaches)
  • 1/4 cup peach cider (optional)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg

cobbler topping

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar for topping

guidance

make the bottom crust

  1. In a small bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. Mix with your hands. Add cold butter to mixture, mixing with hands until butter pieces are the size of pecans. Add ice cold water to the mixture (you may need to add a little more). Mix by hand until the dough comes together. Form dough into a disc, roll out so it can fit into your pie pan.
  2. We like the Fork Crimp method for this pie. Simply take a fork and press down on the outer edges of the pie dish. Pour the dough into the pie pan and immediately put it in the fridge.

make the filling

  1. Fresh peaches are recommended. To peel your peaches easily, cut an X on the bottom of your peach. Boil water and put the peaches in the water for 1 minute. Drain peaches and immediately strain under cold water (or place in an ice bath). The skin can now be easily removed. Slice the peaches and place them in a bowl. Add cup peach cider.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix with your hands. Mix dry mixture with peaches. Mix the ingredients together with your hands or a spatula.
  3. Pour peach mixture into crust. Keep in the fridge.

top the cobbler

  1. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix with your hands. Cut the butter into small pieces, stirring with your hands into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of a pea. Add milk and vanilla. With spatula, mix ingredients until it forms a dough.
  2. With spoon or spatula, dollop cobbler over peaches. Use spatula to spread cobbler evenly over pie top. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top. Bake the pie in the oven at 375. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake the pie for 45-60 minutes or until a thick bubble of peach juice and the cobbler top is fully cooked.
  3. If the cobbler cooks too quickly, pour aluminum foil over the top to prevent it from burning. Allow the pie to cool slightly before slicing.

Best enjoyed warm and a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream.

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