Come fall, Colorado apple trees are laden with crisp red orbs just waiting to be picked and eaten whole, diced into salads, or baked in desserts. “People have a lot of powerful memories of apple harvest—the smells, the tastes, the feelings,” says Jeff Schwartz, director of agricultural operations at Big B’s Fruit Company in Paonia. “It’s a very special fruit.” Here, we asked local growers and a chef about their
favorite Centennial State varieties and how best to prepare them.

1. Pink Lady

Color: Rosy pink 
and yellowish
Best For: Juicing and dehydrating. But save some fresh slices of the ultrafirm, tart beauties, which are ideal for dipping in caramel. They can “go up against the classic Granny Smith,” Schwartz says.

2. Jonathan

Color: Deep crimson
Best For: Dehydrating. Schwartz likes to core and cut the slightly acidic, sugar-
kissed fruit into rounds or wedges to finish in a food dehydrator. “It makes excellent dried fruit,” Schwartz says of the delicate, yellowish-white flesh.

3. Honeycrisp

Color: Mottled reddish-pink and 
Best For: Salads. Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth makes this robust, baseball- to softball-size fruit the star of its wildly popular kale apple salad, a mix of shredded kale, julienned apples, lemon vinaigrette, candied almonds, Grana Padano cheese, and a dash of the Japanese spice mix togarashi. “The Honeycrisp’s crunch is amazing,” 
says executive chef and partner Steve Redzikowski.

4. Cameo

Color: Speckled blush and yellow
Best For: Applesauce. Sharon Perdue, owner of Longmont’s Ya Ya Farm and Orchard, blends sweet-tart Cameos with other varieties she has on hand to make applesauce. (The Jonagold, a cross between the Jonathan and a Golden Delicious, makes a nice addition.) “I usually don’t add anything to my applesauce, but you could throw in cinnamon or other spices at the end, once you know what the apple flavor is really going to be,” she says.

5. McIntosh

Color: Maroon with some yellow undertones and striping
Best For: Baking. Honey-tinged McIntoshes are great for pies, crisps, applesauce, and fresh eating, but you often must visit a local orchard to find them. That’s because this variety is thin-skinned and tender, so the apples bruise easily during shipping. “Pick them yourself, take them home, put them in the refrigerator,” Perdue says, “and you’ll have them for up to three weeks.”

6. Winesap

Color: Rich burgundy accented by lighter shades of red
Best For: Eating in winter. Thanks to their late-season harvest and sturdy constitution, Winesaps can be kept for months. They also make the best pies, Perdue says. “It hits every sense on your taste buds,” she says. “A lot of times in the Winesap, you can see these clear lines in the flesh, and that’s actually where the sugars have set.”

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2023.
Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta is Colorado-based writer and editor. She writes about travel, lifestyle, food and beverage, fitness, education and anything with a great story behind it.