Mexican vegetables are featured in a cuisine that combines indigenous and Spanish influences. Mexico is self-sufficient in most fruits and vegetables (that is, Mexican farmers grow enough to meet the needs of the people), and in beans, rice, and sugar. However, many people living in rural areas are poor, and are barely able to grow enough food to feed their own families. When I lived in Oaxaca, I liked to go the food stands that were right outside the university buildings downtown, which was right next to a small park, with plenty of room for the food vendors to set up their ingredients and comales. Comida (lunch) is usually a soup, tortillas or a torta sandwich, rice and beans, and a mixed salad.
The most common salad is a tostada, which is layered on top of a fried tortilla. But the American influence is easy to see in the variety of raw and cooked salads, especially around the universities. Avocado, which grows on a tree, is native to Mexico and one of the most beloved vegetable with its creamy mild flavor. Think guacamole. Avocados are considered so healthy that it is now recommended to eat one every day. Corn is considered a staple, showing up in everything from tortillas to salsas at every meal, or just eaten fresh picked off the cob (an elote steamed and served with butter and cheese). Another way of serving elotes is serving the grains/kernels cut off the cob, in the southern and central areas Mexico people call this serving esquite instead of elote then eaten with a spoon. Jícama (pronounced /ˈhɪkəmə/, from Nahuatl xicamatl, [ʃiˈkamatɬ]), also known as a Mexican Turnip, is the name of a native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the plant’s edible tuberous root. Jicama is a favorite sweet root vegetable of the street vendors eaten raw. Cilantro leaves gives a distinctive flavor. Add north of the border apples and blueberries and you have a satisfying mixed salad.
- 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (cut from 3 corn cobs-save the cobs in the freezer for making veg stock)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 6 ounces)
- 1 package (6 ounces or 1 cup) fresh blueberries, rinsed
- 1 cup (1/2-inch cubes) jicama
- 1 large crisp apple, cored and diced
- 1 to 2 firm ripe avocadoes, diced
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3 to 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl toss corn with olive oil. Spread corn out onto in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast about 25 minutes. Mix corn with wooden spoon and spread corn out again to a single layer. Continue roasting until corn for another 5 to 10 minutes or until about half the kernels are a deep brown color. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile in a large bowl, toss romaine, blueberries, jicama, apple, avocado, cilantro, lime juice and salt until evenly blended. Add corn and toss to coat. Serve immediately.