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.
As you may have noticed this year, I’ve been posting a lot of mango recipes. Mangoes are seemingly easier and cheaper to get on the West Coast, and available for a longer period of time than in Chicago where we used to live. We’ve been drinking a lot of agua de mango this year because I can’t resist buying mangoes almost every week.
This recipe calls for Ataulfo mangoes, which are a yellow variety known for being sweet. Close substitutes or other names for this kind of mango can include Manila mangoes, honey mangoes or champagne mangoes. Ataulfo mangoes are in peak season between March and June, but can often be found in stores all the way through December depending on the part of the country where you live.
Leave the mangoes out on the counter at room temperature for a few days if they’re firm at the time you buy them. You’ll know they’re ripe and ready to use when the skin gives a little when you press it and/or the skin starts to wrinkle slightly. If the skin is already wrinkled when you buy them, they’re ready to use immediately. This variety of mango is less fibrous than the Tommy Atkins (green with red blush) variety, and therefore is more ideal for making aguas frescas.
If you like this recipe, you may also like my agua de fresa y mango recipe (strawberry and mango)….
Although May is National Strawberry Month, the grocery stores seem to suddenly be overflowing with ripe strawberries in the last week or so. We love strawberries in our house, but when you buy a few pounds of them at once because they’re inexpensive, what can you do with them other than eat them? Turn them into an agua fresca, of course! You want to be sure that your strawberries are red, ripe and fragrant to use them for this recipe. If they’re super sweet, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in the simple syrup in the recipe; it’s a matter of personal taste how sweet you like the agua to be. Mango adds a sweet and summery twist to this classic agua de fresa recipe. If you don’t like mango, you can leave it out and increase the amount of strawberries by about one-third of a pound.
A few notes about this recipe: This particular agua fresca is a little bit thicker consistency than others due to the mango flesh. You can dilute it with additional water if you like, but the consistency of the recipe written here makes it more Colima-style. You should use yellow mangoes rather than the green and magenta-colored ones (a variety called Tommy Atkins, mostly grown in Florida, and known in Spanish as petacón because of the big-bottomed shape) usually available in most grocery stores.
The yellow mangoes you’ll find in the U.S. are mostly Ataulfo mangoes and are very similar to Manila mangoes in taste and look, and both have very thin seeds, meaning you’ll get more mango flesh. (Manila are the yellow variety most commonly available in Mexico City that we’re used to eating when we’re there.) Both Ataulfo and Manila mangoes have sweet, creamy flesh that practically melts in your mouth and are not fibrous like the Tommy Atkins variety, which can be tough if not ripe or stringy due to the fibers. Ataulfo mangoes are in season from March to July; they should be yellow to yellow-orange in color with no black spots, and they’re perfectly ripe when the flesh gives a little (just like with a peach) and the skin starts to wrinkle just a bit….