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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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Keep Your New Year Intentions Alive!

May 4, 2018
As the newness of the new year wears off and we move into May, our motivation and intentions may start to take a back seat as well. This year you planned for greatness, right? Don’t let your inspirations and goals fall to the wayside and get lost in the mix of work, family, eating, exercising, and life in general. We get it, it’s a lot to accomplish! Were you planning to sign up for a marathon, cooking classes, or a yoga retreat? Here area few tips to help you keep sight of those fresh intentions you set for the new year.   Write it all down There’s major power in putting a pen to paper! Write all of your goals and intentions down. Be as clear and specific as you can. Better yet, leave some extra pages in there so you can keep adding as you go along. Written goals and intentions have a higher percentage of actually being realized. At the end of the year, you’ll see how your life has shifted and changed through your intentions. You’ll get to appreciate and reflect on your year’s story of trials and accomplishments which continue to shape who you are each day.   Find an accountability buddy Whether you’re embarking on a cleanse, yoga practice, or making room for some self-care in your life, an accountability buddy is there to keep you on track. Share the highs and lows of whatever you’re going through together and increase the chances of sticking to your set goals. Were you thinking on skipping that workout? Not going to happen! As accountability buddies, you are there through the thick and thin to motivate, inspire, and work towards your mutual goals.   Use the power of meditation Meditation is a wonderful tool used to keep us on track with our intentions and goals. The key is to focus on the FEELINGS you wish to have through your process. How do you want to feel today, this week, or this year? Use this power to attract your goals to you. The more you meditate on those fuzzy feelings from your upcoming achievements, you’ll be closer to manifesting them into reality.   Don’t give up! If you have gone off track a bit, don’t call it quits just yet. Turn to these tips to get you through this ebb until you’re back in the flow! Pull out your notebook, read over your goals, chat with your accountability buddy, meditate, and make a plan for your week. Life is about making minor tweaks, adjustments, and changes along your journey to balance and happiness. Know that everything you want is already yours. You just need to tap into your abilities to stay on track to living the life you want! Was a Yoga Retreat on your list of intentions for this year? There’s no better time to book a Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica! Selva Armonia hosts retreats all year long. Take a step in sticking to your goals and join us in the jungle!   By Sarah Blanks
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Essential Foods to Kick Off Your Cleanse

November 17, 2016
There ARE ways to cleanse that won’t cause your taste buds to retract into your tongue! No need to torture yourself with disastrous concoctions that yield odd consistencies, tastes that make you cringe, or strange smells. There are loads of yummy foods that you can easily incorporate into your daily diet to supercharge detoxification. The liver is a major organ that detoxifies the body and protects it from disease that can be caused by harmful substances. For this reason, many of the below items nourish, repair, and help your liver do what it does best. Here is a list of some of essential foods to cleanse your body. Find out how they work harmoniously with your body to boost your health and rid unwelcomed toxins! Greens, greens, and more greens! Our spectacular earth produces a green superteam to facilitate a smooth functioning body inside and out. The following greens, plus countless others, can be called upon to aid digestion, reduce inflammation, clean out the liver, reduce risk of cancer, alleviate bloating, and much more! The greens in our superteam include: artichoke, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, kale, green tea, and dill which are commonly jam packed with vitamins and antioxidants to nourish the body and target the liver so it may process more effectively. Citrus: Citrus fruits are very well known for containing a high level of vitamin C. We’ve all heard that vitamin C is good for us, but did you know that this vitamin has antiviral and anticancer properties and fights infections? Incorporating tangy options into your diet such as lemons, grapefruits, oranges, limes, mandarins, clementines, and tangerines add much needed vitamins and minerals that can help your body break down fats, remove waste, and flush out toxins. Replacing your usual drinks with a consistent flow of lemon water throughout the day provides instant detox results and tastes great! With the powers of vitamin C, vitamin B, and fiber, citrus is an excellent option to include into your diet if you wish to keep your cholesterol levels low, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and combat heart disease. Seeds and Nuts: Seeds and nuts can be consumed by the handful or sprinkled onto your favorite salads, yogurt, oatmeal, and any other creative food combination of your choice. Sunflower seeds, almonds, and flaxseeds are powerful sidekicks that cleanse the liver, provide fatty acids, and are loaded with antioxidants. Sunflower seeds are known for boosting heart health and regulating blood pressure. Almonds act as a cleaning crew and remove those pesky fatty deposits that can build up in the liver from processed foods and a not-so-clean diet. When needing a fiber, mineral, and vitamin upgrade, call upon flaxseeds for this job! Flaxseeds do incredible work through absorbing and dumping out harmful toxins found in food. Seeds and nuts take minimal effort to add to your diet, but pack quite a punch in overall benefits in added health to your body.   Potent and Powerful Must Haves: Beets - Ditching your coffee and upgrading to some beet juice is a sure way to boost your body in the morning. Beets make it onto our list because of their high level of antioxidants, fiber, and other nutritional content that aids the liver and other organs throughout the body. Beets can help further carry out the toxins out of the body that the liver has already flushed and have even been proven to heal liver damage. Eating beets raw or cooked is another great way to absorb the vital nutrients that they provide. Onion - This vegetable has more to offer its consumers besides tears and a strong smell. Onions have antibacterial properties, loads of antioxidants, antihistamine, and anti-inflammatory properties. These layered tear jerkers can help treat diabetes, heart disease, and reduce risk of cancer. With all of these qualities and more, they embody the phrase, “no pain, no gain!” Garlic - Last but not least is one of the most important superfoods for starting a detox! Garlic contains levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients that helps our body function better which in-turn allows the body cleanse itself through its natural process more easily. Adding garlic into your everyday diet reaps hefty benefits and is available in capsule supplements for those who are turned off by the reeking smell! By Sarah Blanks At Selva Armonia, we prepare gourmet, garden to table meals for our guests! The majority of ingredients are nutrient rich foods grown on our abundant permaculture farm. Book a room or yoga retreat with us and enjoy a delicious, vegetarian meal from our gardens!  
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5 Fruits You Should Juice In Costa Rica

July 26, 2016

It's a Juicer's Paradise!

Here are the top 5 fruits you should juice in Costa Rica.

Avid juicers and smoothie-makers seem to be getting more creative and innovative by the day. A constant influx of creative new recipes, fancy presentations, and the overall health benefit motivates many to bust out the old blender and try it out themselves! Surrounded by a never ending variety of unique fruits to juice in Costa Rica, it’s easy to get excited when mango or soursop season is just around the corner! With such a grand and savory variety of choices, it can be easy to get lost in thought of what to mix up first. Below are some common fruits grown in the jungles of Costa Rica. They taste absolutely amazing and pack a hefty punch of nutritional value!  

1. Soursop (Guanabana)

Soursop, also known as Guanabana (and various other aliases), is a definite favorite here in Costa Rica. Guanabana is extremely rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. What many probably don’t know about this fruit is that it fights parasites, viruses, and cancer. This absolutely delicious superfruit can be enjoyed plain, blended in smoothies, mixed with other fruit favorites, or any other way found suitable! One can snack guilt free while reaping the enormous health benefits of this powerful fruit. retreat_selva-armonia_guanabana-july_2016-fruit_guanabana_costa_rica  

2. Starfruit (Carambola)

This precious item on the list actually does take the shape of a star when cut in half. This dangling fruit has a waxy outside, juicy inside, and mildly sweet taste. You can find locals and visitors buying up these fruits in the farmer’s market or collecting the ripe picks of the season from trees and off the ground. With a long list of nutritional benefits, you won’t see many of these go to waste! Starfruit uniquely helps prevent cancer, aids healthy skin, and helps to reduce inflammation. Adding this magical ingredient to your drinks will aid the digestive process, keep your heart happy, and boost your immune system.   retreat_selva-armonia_vegan-january_2016-starfruit  

3.  Noni

To really capture the nutritional essence of noni, it can be consumed in juice form, preferably unsweetened! Noni are rich in antioxidants, help prevent cancer, boost immune system operation, improve hair/skin health, and aid in digestive health. What makes noni unique is it’s ability to work as a natural painkiller to reduce discomfort from various physical ailments. Even more interestingly, this fruit can help fight and prevent fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, which are commonly experienced in a tropical climate. Noni also affects our serotonin and melatonin hormone levels to bring a better mood and more restful sleep! Is there anything this ripe, yellow, speckled ball doesn’t do?  See Noni and other fruits in our gardens. 12027597_1031382210246263_5489305035488429763_n  

 4.  Passion Fruit (Maracuya)

Passion fruit fills many roles as an immune booster, mood enhancer, nervous system relaxer, cancer fighter, colon cleanser, and much more! This zestful ball of goodness also contributes to vision, blood pressure, digestive, and overall immune health. It is quite easy to round up all of those tasty seeds and make them into juice or add them to smoothies and salads. The incredible benefits paired with the ease of consumption of this fruit make it a must have on this list and in your diet! 10401958_914501125267706_4419149965006052670_n  

5.  Guava

Last on our list, but most certainly not least, Guava, a seedy, nutritious, powerhouse fruit! Guava contains many of the same health benefits of the fruits listed above. What makes guava extra special and essential for our diet is the positive impact it has on the circulation of blood to the brain, healthy skin complexion, and boost in metabolism for weight loss. At the end of a long, hard day, an ice cold cup of guava juice will be sure to relax your muscles and help release stress and tension. retreat_selva-armonia_fruit-juice-july_2016-guava_costa_rica For any ailment one can experience here in Costa Rica or anywhere in the world, there seems to be an army of superfruits to help prevent or provide a solution! If you ever find yourself coming to Costa Rica for a vacation, yoga retreat, or lifestyle change, be sure to check out these heavenly fruits and reap the health benefits first-hand for yourself! Written by Sarah Elena
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