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What are Açaí Berries Anyway?

March 31, 2020

Where I’m from, you don’t really grow up thinking about where your food comes from.  You don’t know how it’s grown or how to harvest it, and you literally have to take courses to know what’s a vegetable and a fruit. And still, you don't have any real hands-on experience. You don't feel the earth between your fingers, see what the seed looks like, or feel the excitement when it first peaks above the ground... so it was a real treat for me to witness the entire process of growing, harvesting and juicing açaí berries here at Selva Armonia.

Acai Berries Juice Making Process
The Acai Juice Making Process.  From left to right: the berry picked straight from the tree; the berry after the skin is peeled; and finally the juice.

When you move to a country where understanding where your food comes from is as easy as stepping outside and picking it off a tree, you learn a lot every day.  But learning about açaí has been the most mind-blowing venture yet.  

For a year and a half, I watched the oropendolas birds build nests in the palm tree by the Selva Armonia pool.  Quite a scene that can keep you entertained for hours. One after another after another, and as they build they make the most distinct and hilarious gargling sounds.  They are persistent and when done, we are left with wilting palm leaves heavy with nests. When the weight finally breaks the branch, the beautiful creations are kept as decor.        

While all this was happening, I didn’t really notice anything else about the tree.  Didn’t even think to ask... Until I witnessed the process of making açaí juice. It wasn’t until the very end, when I asked where the juicy berries came from, that I realized it was from this same palm tree.  Amazing!  

Known as a huge health benefit superfruit, these are just a few facts about açaí berries:

  • They keep you regular
  • They are high in calcium
  • They have a ton of omega 3 fatty acids
  • They improve cholesterol levels
  • They're loaded with antioxidants
  • They boost brain function!

In Canada, you are either paying a pretty penny for açaí berries that say ‘fresh’ on the label, or you’re buying them dried or in powder form.  And really -- what’s fresh? I don’t think there’s anything more fresh than picking them right off the tree, and since they aren't grown anywhere close to my old home, I have to question the definition of "fresh"!  

10 pounds of freshly picked açaí berries later, I roamed into our Casa Grande kitchen and found the berries were ready to juice.  “Purple Gold” as they call it. Such a rich colour, and they all looked ready to burst with flavour. 

Harvesting Acai Berries

Once the berries were washed with water to remove any debris and tiny hungry jungle critters, we put them in a large pot to soak with boiled water. Next came the tedious task of removing the skin from each and every single berry.  When you have 10 pounds of it, it calls for some music and fun conversation!  

Getting ready to peel acai berries

When it came down to it, a masher just wouldn’t do, and good old fashion “get your hands dirty” was the only way to get the job done. With some determination, love, and patience, 4 hours later the skin had been removed from each tiny berry. 

A long, peeling process...

The final step was to throw everything in a blender and smooth out the bits of peel -- the parts bursting with nutrients and antioxidants that you for sure don’t want to miss out on.

This sweet goodness is now stored in the fridge, cooling down and ready to be used in tons of creative recipes, from smoothies to açaí bowls to straight-up shots of berry juice... Mmmmm!

The finished product!

Credits: 
Cook: Maria Fernandez
Photographer: Natasha Pirani
Written By: Natasha Pirani

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Upcoming Retreats: March 2020

February 29, 2020

As the dust from Envision's festival season starts to settle, the start of spring brings a return to "retreat mode" with another busy month of growth, yoga, spirituality, and adventure to look forward to here at Selva Armonia! Keep reading to learn about the upcoming yoga retreats we're hosting in March 2020 and the unique offerings each one brings to guests.

Manifest Your Journey - Selva Armonia Yoga Retreats March 2020

Manifest Your Journey

Dates: March 1-7, 2020
Hosted by: Allie van Fossen, aka The Journey Junkie

"Learn to manifest your journey using the chakra system with Allie van Fossen, aka The Journey Junkie! We’ll spend six transformative days learning, mapping, and embodying the manifestation current of the chakra system – a framework that brings your dreams from consciousness down to the earth plane.

The manifestation journey begins in consciousness where we open ourselves to new ideas, set intentions, and upgrade our belief system. It then descends through six energetic layers that involve seeing, speaking, connecting, doing, feeling, and having our dream. You will leave this retreat with a clear understanding of what to do at each energetic level and how to successfully manifest your dreams!

When you’re not manifesting in Selva Armonia's open-air yoga studio, you can relax and rejuvenate by the infinity pool, read in a hammock, book a spa service, or take a mid-day siesta in your bedroom. You get to do you, while also being fully taken care of by myself, the chakra system, and your retreat community."

Ignite Your Inner Nature - Selva Armonia Yoga Retreats March 2020

Ignite Your Inner Nature

Dates: March 15-21, 2020
Hosted by: Kate Nicholson & Mae Corwin

"Hit pause on the pressures of daily life to immerse yourself in the rich and diverse natural wonders of Costa Rica. This retreat will be an opportunity to connect with a supportive community of women while living artfully in nature, exploring inner and outer landscapes with fresh eyes and renewed energy.

We will use the eastern philosophy of the five elements in our daily practices to cultivate a deeper connection in Presence, Pleasure & Purpose. Less doing and more being; transplant yourself into a lush and therapeutic environment where you will have ample time and space to rest, relax, play, explore, and just sit with the bigger questions that stir within you. "

She Thrives - Selva Armonia Yoga Retreats March 2020

She Thrives: Women's Yoga & Self-Empowerment Retreat

Dates: March 25-30, 2020
Hosted by: Kim Wenger-Hall & Toby Israel

"Love to laugh? Want to reconnect with your inborn optimism and treat yourself and the planet with loving-kindness? Ready to own the ease and self-acceptance that are your birthright?

Press the reset button on your daily grind and enter a space of empowerment, fun and regenerative service. This retreat is for women who want to THRIVE—and not just survive! Journey with us to receive...

Clarity: Guided inquiry, meditation and ceremony to peel away layers of anger, shame and fear to see clearly what is aligned and true for you and reclaim the magic of your ancestral wisdom.

Strength: Empowerment Self-Defense: fun, dynamic, and incredibly effective tools created by women for physical self-defense as well as setting and maintaining strong boundaries.

Balance: Vinyasa yoga to wring out stale energy and fire up the heat of transformation. Restorative yoga to soothe the nervous system and assist the integration of healing.

Joy: Soul-healing connections with other Earth-centered women and generous time for play in the sun and surf.

Satisfaction: Work side by side with residents of Uvita on service projects to help our home Planet heal herself, re-membering there is no true inner sanctuary if we are not also healing the outer sanctuary that is our Mother Earth."

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Upcoming Retreats: February 2020

February 3, 2020

February is an exciting time for us here at Selva Armonia! As festival go-ers, yoga teachers and wellness practitioners flock to the beaches of Uvita, Costa Rica for the 10th anniversary of Envision Festival, the world's original jungle festival, we prepare our own grounds for retreats and events that offer additional opportunity for guests to explore some of the festival's (and our own!) founding pillars: Permaculture, Health, Movement, Sustainability, Spirituality, and Community.

As the festival's sister retreat center, developed by Envision co-founder Josh Wendel, we hold space to put these principles in practice and reinforce them into daily life all year long -- but we LOVE the heightened energy around Envision time! Keep reading to preview what incredible Costa Rica retreats we have in store for February 2020!

Envision: Herbal First Aid Clinic & Training

Herbal Clinic Costa Rica Retreat

Dates: February 9-16, 2020
Hosted by: Sarah Wu


"Have you ever wanted to be in service, gaining hands-on experience in herbal medicine and First Aid? In the fast-paced, high vibe setting of Envision Festival, students of all levels get to learn and practice, with the supervision of skilled professional herbalists. Learning basic acute care, on-the-fly formulations, herbal materia medica, client intakes, and pop-up herbal clinic strategies, students get an immersion in integrated medicine and community resilience.

Participants embark on a 16-day adventure with 40 hours of learning through lectures, demos and role-playing, and 20 hours of clinical practice. We will spend 7 nights at Selva Armonia Retreat Center and 8 nights at Envision, having two half-days off.  You'll be working with a team of established herbalists to support the Official Medical and Harm Reduction departments at Envision Festival. Students become a part of the Envision team, bringing holistic wellness to this amazingly eclectic community!"

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