Support us with Kachingle!
September 13, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
As Maroua Jawadi enters the kitchen with a bowl of watermelon, the colors of her earrings look like stain-glassed windows. She drops the fruit in the blender, adds a pinch of mint leaves and mixes the batch. The final product? A juicy concoction that makes you wonder why you ever licked to the end of a high-fructose-corn-syrup Bomb Pop.
In July, the Moroccan-born 28-year-old started a new business, Fresh Beets, and she sells her organic pops at the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market every Sunday.
Where: Wabash Station
When: Now through Oct. 28; Sun. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: Free (Maroua's ice pops cost $3 each or two for $5)
“We (Jawadi and her younger brother, Mo Jawadi) use fresh fruit that’s in season,” she says. “That’s absolutely unheard of in the popsicles we’re used to chasing the ice-cream truck for.”
At Fresh Beets, expect unique flavors such as spicy pineapple, cantaloupe and cream and kaffir lime avocado.
Maroua repeats customer favorites such as roasted peach, but she rotates flavors according to the season. She’s always incorporating new organic herbs and fruits into the pops to keep them local and fresh.
“We work with what we can find; someone who grows peppers will say, ‘Hey, I have these peppers,’ and then it’s almost like a challenge — what am I going to do with them?” she says. “(We are) inspired by some new ingredient that we came across, which is part of the fun.”
Mo helps his sister at the popsicle stand and as personal taste-tester.
“Maroua will throw a flavor at me like nectarine balsamic mint honey,” he says. “I search for all the flavors and realize I taste something else — and she says, ‘I put vanilla in it, too.’ I can decipher those flavors now.”
Alex Hitt, a farmer from North Carolina, tasted the spicy pineapple flavor pop at the Fresh Beets stand. “This popsicle has just the right amount of pepper,” Hitt says. “There’s some spiciness, but it’s not too crazy, which is a tricky thing to do; when you combine spicy and sweet flavors, the balance is important.”
Eventually, the Jawadis want to set up more stands around town. They have a mobile food vendor permit, but instead of operating from a truck or a van, they choose a “pop-cycle,” — a tricycle with a rear cooler — to limit their environmental footprint.
Maroua moved to the U.S. from Morocco when she was 2 years old. She studied psychology at the University of California, Irvine, and she planned to be a midwife. However, her love for cooking took over, particularly with fresh ingredients.
“We’ve all had that experience where it looks like a tomato, but it doesn’t taste like a tomato,” she says. “I think it’s important that if I wanted to, I could go see where this food is grown.”
Her mother-in-law, Donna Ochsner, believes Fresh Beets and the popsicle maker’s psychology studies have more in common than one might think.
“Eating something sweet is kind of like therapy,” Ochsner says. “I think selling the popsicles goes along well with Maroua’s psychology major.”
During college, Maroua also lived in Turkey, where she tried various desserts and learned ways to extend the life of seasonal foods. Her popsicle inspiration also comes from travels to Morocco and Mexico, where vendors sell fresh fruit-pops in the streets.
“When we travel, I don’t really care where we stay; it’s what we eat,” she says. “Without all of the different food experiences that I’ve had in my life, I wouldn’t be the same person.”