Aguas frescas are a staple in most Mexican and Mexican-American homes, mine included. The best aguas frescas are made with ingredients that are in season because they’re easiest to get, typically cost less because they are more abundant, and have the best flavor because they’re at their peak growing season. Honeydew melon—also known as melón verde—is in season typically from May to October, with the peak from May to August, but we’ve been seeing a lot of this melon in the grocery stores in Southern California since mid-March. This honeydew and cucumber agua fresca recipe is light and refreshing for warm spring and summer days. You can also opt to serve it straight as a juice with breakfast—just run through a juicer or powerful blender and leave out the water and optional sugar.
In March, I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a strawberry farm. This invitation came about after I recently passed through Oxnard on a road trip, where there happen to be several of strawberry farms, and I shared a photo on Instagram and Twitter, asking whether there were any farms that gave tours. The fields and roadside strawberry stands in Oxnard reminded me of Irapuato, a central Mexican town best known for its strawberry fields and the quaint roadside stands where you can get fresh fresas con crema. I’m always interested in knowing about where my food comes from, and living in California, there’s an abundance of local, fresh produce year-round. I was excited to visit a California strawberry farm and have the chance to ask the farmers questions about where my berries come from and how they’re grown. This post is sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission, but all experiences and opinions are my own.
On this visit, I learned that nearly 90 percent of strawberries grown in the U.S. come from California, and strawberries are grown here year-round (with a peak season in March and April) due to the optimal climate, sandy coastal soil and ocean exposure. There are more than 400 strawberry farmers who grow both conventional and organic berries, and California is also the biggest grower of organic strawberries worldwide. Oxnard, where the farm we visited is located, is about 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
The farm that we visited was a family farm that has been farming in Ventura County, California, for more than 110 years. Farmers Edgar and William Terry gave us a tour of their farm, a chance to taste berries fresh from the field and ask questions—even the hard ones. Although the farm we visited was not an organic strawberry farm, I learned a great deal about the methods for growing strawberries and food safety issues (both food safety practiced in the field by the people picking your berries as well as pesticides used and how they affect our health), as well as who is growing and picking my strawberries….
Today, I’m participating in Latinas for Latino Literature’s Día Blog Hop. Over 24 days, 24 Latina bloggers are paired with 24 authors and illustrators. This initiative, started in 2013 in the United States by poet Pat Mora, is in honor of Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros which is celebrated on April 30. All of the guest writers were asked to share an original story or illustration in support of Latino children’s literacy. The Other Side of The Tortilla is the fifth stop on the hop.
I’m thrilled to have been matched with Lupe Ruiz-Flores, the author of one of my favorite bilingual children’s books, Las Aguas Frescas de Alicia.
The story is about a little girl who attends a Mexican Independence Day festival with her parents and discovers agues frescas for the first time. She loves the fruit juices so much, she wants to make them at home with her mami, and soon is creating her own recipes to share with her soccer teammates.
It’s no secret that we’re huge agua fresca fans here at The Other Side of The Tortilla, and I believe teaching your kids about their family roots through food is a beautiful and meaningful way to instill culture and identity, as well as create lifetime memories. Books are another excellent way to teach kids about culture, and we couldn’t do that without Latino authors writing books filled with characters our children can identify with. As such, I’m proud to have my site serve as a vehicle to spread the word about the deep ties between literacy and culture and what they can do for our community.
Lupe Ruiz-Flores has shared an original essay for our readers as part of the L4LL blog hop. You can find the full schedule for all stops on the Día blog hop on the L4LL website.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 2013, we’ve eaten a lot of tacos. There aren’t a lot of places where we’ve returned to eat twice, but one place I like is Lotería Grill—specifically their location at the LA Farmers Market. It has a taco stand feel, the hustle and bustle of an open air market, a whimsical lotería board wall and the tacos I’ve eaten there are consistently good. I recommend this taco de carnitas, pictured below, which is made with Michoacan-style carnitas, salsa de chile morita (which is really not that spicy—although it says spicy on the menu—but is perfectly smoky), and is garnished with a slice of avocado, onion and cilantro. A few weeks ago I enjoyed lunch here with some girlfriends and couldn’t resist snapping a few photos to share.
April 8 is National Empanada Day, and far be it from me to deny a day meant to celebrate these delightful pastries, savory or sweet. This is more of a kitchen tip than a recipe on how to make semi-homemade empanadas, but I’ve included proportions below as a guideline—though you should feel free to tweak to your liking with different fillings or cutting the dough to different sizes. Whether you’re looking to fool party guests, need a quick potluck dish, or just want to make a snack or appetizer for your family, here’s my cheater’s guide to making empanadas, 30 minutes from start to finish.
Cesar Chavez Day is celebrated every year on March 31, the birth date of the famed Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist who helped unionize farm workers. I recently had a chance to visit a strawberry farm in Southern California with the California Strawberry Commission, where I had the chance to ask farmers questions about everything from how they grow their crops to their workers’ safety and healthcare, and immigration issues in the agricultural industry.
I’m sharing one of my favorite Cesar Chavez quotes with you, written over a photo I took at the strawberry farm. More on that trip soon, but for today, just the quote.
- If you’d like to know more about Cesar Chavez, you can read his biography and about his work, archives of his speeches and writing, and more, courtesy of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.