Sylvia Garza of Qué Mami Organics has been busily preparing tamales throughout the month of November to be served up to the tamale, chuchito, and corunda-craving crowds attending this weekend's 24th Annual Indio International Tamale Festival. More than 125,000 attendees are expected over the Dec. 5-6 celebration.
photo by lori cohen-sanford
Tamale making is a labor of love when each masa-filled masterpiece is formed by hand. Qué Mami Organics uses the traditional method of hand-forming each and every one, as with these Black Bean and Smoked Jack variety.
Operating from a shared kitchen in Palm Desert, Garza runs Qué Mami Organics, which makes certified organic salsas, sauces, and tamales derived from family recipes handed down from her own “Mami.” She sells her products at the local Certfied Farmers’ Markets throughout the valley and her tamales can be enjoyed at the Wednesday Palm Desert location.
She started her company based on her family’s passion to share a more healthy version of traditional Mexican foods. Her sauces and salsas contain no artificial ingredients and are made with certified organic produce. Tamales are unique because they do not contain lard and the wrappers are not made from traditional corn husks, as they could not source organic ones. Instead, Garza opted for food-grade paper wrappers free of chemicals or preservatives.
VIDEO: Watch Sylvia Garza create some of her organic tamales.
You can visit Qué Mami at this year’s Indio festival and try a vegetarian Black Bean and Smoked Jack tamale, made with blue corn masa, featuring smoked jack cheese from Springhill Farms, another local farmers’ market vendor. Or, opt for a vegan Portobello Mushroom and Potato tamale. Both options are served with Roasted Tomato or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.
photo courtesy of que mami organics
Locally based Qué Mami Organics will serve up vegetarian and vegan tamales made with certified organic ingredients topped with freshly prepared red and green salsas.
The festival has grown to include more than 75 tamale booths from across the country. Some Coachella Valley participants this year include Adobe Grill, Jackalope Ranch, Las Carretas Taco Shop, Rita’s of La Quinta, and Salsa Momma. Favorites from past years include Grandma Lupe’s Authentic Tamales. Grandma Lupe Calsada is the Grand Marshall of this year’s parade. Another returning favorite is Texifornia Tamale Co. out of San Diego, a winner of Best Overall Tamale in previous years, known for sweet offerings such as chocolate, banana, and peanut butter.
Photo courtesy of Indio International Tamale Festival ®/Kevaworks
Part of the fun of a festival celebrating tamales is the wide variety of creative combinations that can be wrapped up. Sweet versions like this Chocolate Tamale have won the hearts of festival fans in past years.
In addition to the titillating tamale treasures that festival-goers will enjoy, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this year. The annual City of Indio/Tamale Festival Parade will kick things off at 10 a.m. Saturday. A tamale-eating contest, Best Tamale contest, and Selena Look-Alike contest will all be judged during the weekend.
Car enthusiasts can enjoy the 3rd Annual Car Show and there will be an Art, Wine & Craft Beer Garden as well as a return of Artisans Corner, Kiddieland, and carnival rides. Multiple Beer/Margarita Gardens will be available to quench your thirst and perhaps get you in the mood to sing and dance along to live entertainment featured on five stages with a schedule packed full of latin-inspired music and dance.
Admission is free to the public. This year, don’t miss the inaugural City of Indio Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at City Hall.
Qué Mami Organics, www.quemamiorganics.com
Indio International Tamale Festival, 100 Civic Center Mall, 760-832-8620, ext. 43; www.indiotamalefestival.net
Parking is located at the Larson Justice Center, 46200 Oasis St.
Lori Cohen-Sanford is a private/personal chef, cooking class instructor and owner of Nourishfoods Organic Meal Services www.nourishfoods.biz. Tastes Around Town will appear weekly. Follow her on Twitter @nourishfoodsps.