Tart cherries ripe for the picking
After last year’s dismal crop, Steve Lecklider is excited to see the red dots of tart cherries dangling from the trees at Lehman’s Orchard in Niles.
“This year is just so much better,” said Lecklider while driving through the orchard Wednesday off Portage Road.
An early bloom followed by a series of freezing nights wiped out last year’s crop for only the second time since Lehman’s Orchard started growing tart cherries in 1947. The last time was 1990.
Weather has been kind to Lehman’s Orchard this year. Lecklider said they had a late spring followed by a couple frosts that thinned out the crop.
“It was actually beneficial to us because a lot of the crops were heavily loaded, so it helped us in cleaning some of the crops out,” said Lecklider, farm manager.
Starting Monday, Lehman’s Orchard will be offering pick-it-yourself tart cherries to the public. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Patrons can weigh, wash and pit the cherries at the orchard. The you-pick is expected to last about three weeks.
Lehman’s has two types of tart cherries: Montmorency and Balaton.
Lecklider said Montmorency is a thin-skinned cherry with a complex flavor great for baking, soup, wine and jam. The Balaton, he said, is also good is also a good pie cherry with a darker, thicker skin.
“It’s very close to a sweet cherry, but not as large and a one-dimensional flavor,” he said.
Lehman’s Orchard, 2280 Portage Road, Niles, will be offering you-pick blueberries beginning the last week in July.