The best and freshest: Discover handmade paletas

Here's a selection of paleterías in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Each offers a wide variety of delicious, made-on-the- premises paletas.

Delicias de México. Don't overlook the corn paleta de leche, savory-sweet and creamy, at this fantasy pink-and- white-striped ice cream parlor. Other favorites among the more than two dozen flavors are the spicy ones, such as cucumber or mango with chile. The paleta supplies run low on Sunday afternoons; get there early. 13466 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 590-0031.

La Flor de Michoacán. His tiny, hard-to-find shop might be spare décor-wise and he might not always stick his sticks in straight, but Albert Garcia makes some of the best paletas around. Try his coconut paleta de agua, shaggy with big strips of fresh coconut, or the mango with chile that strikes just the right balance between spicy and sweet. 1750 S. Main St., Suite B, Santa Ana, (714) 664-0701.

Mateo's Ice Cream and Fruit Bars. A small chain with a big menu -- of paletas, nieves (ice cream), licuados (shakes) and vampiros, or "vampires," vegetable juices. Paleta flavors might include tejocote (a Mexican fruit resembling crab apple) and pitaya, or dragon fruit. 1250 S. Vermont Ave., No. 105, Los Angeles, (213) 738-7288; 4222 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 931-5500; 4929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, (310) 313-7625; 522-B E. Vine Ave., West Covina, (626) 919-2090.

La Mich Paletería Mexican Ice Creamery. A bright, contemporary paleta shop with plenty of seating and lots of options. You can even get any paleta dipped in chocolate and covered with coconut or nuts (resulting in "The Big Mich") or dipped in chamoy syrup for a chamoyada. 1026 Huntington Drive, Duarte, (626) 359-6333.

La Nueva Reyna de Michoacán. A popular nevería in Santa Ana's Fiesta Plaza, right next to a merry-go-round. Favorite paleta: a creamy strawberry one with a big, whole strawberry at the base, right where the paleta meets the stick. 300 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, (714) 835-0394.

Paletería La Michoacana. Passion fruit, blackberry, soursop, nopales fruit, coconut, cantaloupe, watermelon, pistachio -- so hard to choose, but you can't go wrong. A yogurt paleta is tangy-creamy and filled with nuts and chunks of peach, apple and strawberry. The peanut paleta is one-of-a- kind: made with just a touch of milk, it's not so much creamy as icy with lots of crushed peanuts throughout. 306 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 623-2650.

Paletería La Michoacana (unrelated to the above). It can be standing-room-only at this paleta shop located in the Plaza Mexico shopping center and food court; stroll the courtyards with paletas in hand. The mamey paleta de leche has the perfect balance between fruit and ice cream. 3100 E. Imperial Highway, Building B1, Unit 1315, Lynwood, (310) 603-1943.

Paletería Límon. Grab a number and stand in line for a vanilla ice cream paleta studded with raisins, or a pineapple paleta spiked with chile, or a chicle paleta -- bubble-gum flavored with a couple of gum balls inserted into the ice pop on either side of the stick, something to chew on after your paleta is long gone. 6100 Atlantic Blvd., Maywood, (323) 773-8806.

-- Betty Hallock