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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Credits: Cook: Maria Fernandez Photographer: Natasha Pirani Written By: Natasha Pirani
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
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!"
With the new year right around the corner, retreat season is officially upon us, and our team at Selva Armonia is so excited for a year full of growth, fun, and fulfillment! We love sharing our space with people from all around the world, giving them a chance to reconnect back to nature and their inner selves. Every retreat offers something special and unique to its attendees, and we're so grateful to be able to facilitate those once-in-a-lifetime experiences in our jungle home. Keep reading to preview some of the amazing Costa Rica retreats we have in store for January 2020!
Wide Open Writing
January 19-25, 2020 Hosted by: Dulcie Whitman & Nancy Coleman
"Writing is a path to the creative genius in all of us. Whether you call yourself a writer or not, we know the transformational power of putting yourself in a nurturing environment with permission to notice what you notice and then write about it.
Come be part of a writing community that is devoted to co-creating magic in a place well-known for its magnificent scenery, gourmet vegetarian food, and deep connection to the natural world. Join us for 7 days/6 nights as we settle our body mind and spirit into the magical bounty of the Costa Rican Rainforest."
January 29- February 4, 2020 Hosted by: Erin Ward-Williams & Victoria Hegedus
"Join yoga and movement educators, Erin Ward-Williams and Victoria Hegedus, on a one-week feel-your-best retreat in beautiful Uvita, Costa Rica. Think yoga, mindful movement, and fueling your body with nature's most nutritious foods.
Enjoy morning vinyasa yoga practices as well as offerings of functional movement that get you feeling your muscles and building true body awareness. This is your chance to experience yoga and Costa Rica's natural beauty all in one laid-back and inclusive setting... explore waterfalls, lounge by the pool, or head down to the beach for a peaceful retreat. Join us for a tropical adventure as we zip-line through the treetops and dance with the waves of the Pacific!"
Coming Soon: The Selva Armonia Plant and Recipe Book!
December 7, 2019
If you’ve ever paid us a visit in the jungle, you probably already know how much love goes into the preparation and presentation of our food. We draw inspiration for our recipes from Mother Nature herself, harvesting ingredients from our garden and infusing the Selva Armonia spirit into each nourishing, vegan meal.
Today, we’re proud to announce that you can soon take your favorite recipes from the rainforest home with you!
Inspired by our incredible edible garden, two of our former volunteers, Néstor Feijoo Melián (@rayon.es) and Eva Díaz Bethencourt (@evadiazbeth), returned to Selva Armonia earlier this year to collaborate on this special project with our head chef, Yery Picado (@chefyery).
Thanks to the hard work and devotion of these three wonderful humans, the Selva Armonia Plant & Recipe Book will be available for purchase online in early 2020! A direct reflection of the love that surrounds our kitchen and gardens, the Selva Armonia Plant & Recipe Book is full of your favorite vegan recipes made on-site and fun descriptions of the ingredients that flourish in our Costa Rica gardens. Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you're the first to find out how you can get a copy and put some Pura Vida in your kitchen!
See what guests are saying about our food:
“Selva was gorgeous at every turn, and the staff was the most warm, friendly, and full of high energy. We had the most relaxing stay and amazing meals on site. You won't want to leave to head down to the beach, but the beaches are also uncrowded and gorgeous. Can't recommend enough.”
Lance P., 2019
“Wonderful yoga retreat with a view of the ocean! The staff were the best and friendliest. Meals were fresh off the farm!”
Francis S., 2017
“Absolutely stunning location with fantastic views. The staff are all friendly and very helpful. I can’t begin to explain how wonderful all the meals were. I definitely would love to go back some day. Pura Vida at its best!”