A Paleta in Sunset ParkWhen it's this hot, even ice cream can offer little respite. You need something more hydrating, something closer to water. You need a paleta, a Mexican fruit-based popsicle. Paleta literally means “little shovel,” and these treats are wider than the standard popsicle. They have a more handmade form, reminiscent of the kind your mom used to make in a tupperware contraption. But paletas come in flavors that would confuse mom (and you), like mamey, tamarind, and jamaica (hibiscus). Legend has it that Montezuma II, the emperor of Tenochtitlan, was the first to enjoy paletas, made from tropical fruits and ice carted from volcanic mountaintops. Today, throughout the central Mexican state of Michoacan and in a few Texan towns, paleterías are a common sight, selling the cooling pops from a cart on the street. In fact, a paletería is a great way for an entrepreneur to get a start without a lot of capital, so it’s a natural for New York.

In the far reaches of Borough Park, Brooklyn, you can find a little paletería powerhouse called Sley Grocery. At first it looks like any old bodega, until you notice that the freezer case goes on for the length of the store. It’s stocked with a dazzling palette of flavors, all of which are made in a little back room using real fruit juices and pulp. Novices might want to start with a fresa (strawberry), which has a purer taste than the Frozefruit bars commonly sold, the floral cantaloupe, which is packed with chunks of fruit, or the guanabana, which has a flavor like a banana but a bit more tart and mild. But if you want real Mexican zing, spring for the pineapple chile pop. South of the border, a classic method for coping with hot weather is to combine citrus with spicy pepper—it must be based on the theory that if you set your mouth on fire you won’t notice the sweltering sun so much. This particular pairing is wise since the chile tames the pineapple, which tends to be too sweet most of the time. It’s a dessert worthy of the culinary flair at wd50 restaurant, but this concoction can be had for just a dollar. Sley Grocery also distributes to several other small stores, mostly in Brooklyn. We long for the day when paleterías will vie for space with Mister Softie on Manhattan streets.

Also available at Reyes Deli, 532 4th Avenue (14th Street), Brooklyn; Juquilita Grocery, 4216 5th Avenue (42nd Street), Brooklyn; and try Paletería La Michoacana, 4118 5th Avenue (41st Street), Brooklyn.