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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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4 Things You’ll Experience at a Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

February 16, 2017
It’s no surprise that Costa Rica is a top destination for those looking to fully immerse themselves into a yoga retreat. The jungle is green, lush, and buzzing with unfamiliar sounds day and night! The climate is incredibly diverse. By day, you may be sweating out built up toxins on the beach, but nighttime may have you bundled up and feeling cozy along a mountain ridge. The culture is vivacious, happy, and incredibly warm. It’s hard not to get sucked into the “pura vida” lifestyle here where people are kind to others and live in a more laid back manner. The health food nut will certainly lose themselves in the wide abundance of fruits and foods that are available to devour! Costa Rica is certainly ranked high up on the list of must-see destinations due to the tranquil, yet explorative environment it provides to those who chose to retreat here. What can one expect to do besides yoga when attending a retreat here? Here are 4 things you'll experience at a yoga retreat in Costa Rica: 1. Learn Yogis who step into a retreat setting in Costa Rica are in for a real treat and can expect to learn much more than solely yoga related information. Retreats are an immersive experience which can include a variety of different workshops in culinary arts, permaculture, herbal medicine, sound healing, holistic nutrition, and much more! Costa Rica’s uniqueness attracts master yoga teachers from all over the world and provides a truly exquisite experience for those who open themselves to it. Many retreat centers here have their own gardens or small farms where the food is brought fresh directly from the earth to the table. Costa Rica is filled with many opportunities to try different foods and learn how they can be used to nourish and heal your body. 2. Play Playing isn’t only for kids! Costa Rica has a way of unleashing one’s inner child to explore all the new sights, smells, and textures that cover the diverse country. Those who choose a yoga retreat in Costa Rica get to enjoy mother nature’s jungle playground. There’s no better way to wake up than taking a splash into crystal clear water at the peak of morning or sliding down a waterfall after an intense yoga practice. Dancing under the stars, playing with new poses, and rising with a newly awakened energy each morning brings out the natural playfulness that has been itching to be released! Two coastlines of beaches mean there are many private spots to explore here. Costa Rica offers an abundance of vibrant seashells, picture perfect sunsets, warm ocean waves, diverse wildlife, and much more for those ready to come and explore! 3. Unwind Costa Rica is the ultimate place to unwind! This top vacation spot harbors some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and is a great location for those looking to go off the grid. No wonder so many come here to simply unwind. Attending a yoga retreat in this magnificent country provides the perfect environment for one to detach, relax, and recalibrate. No alarm clock needed here! Wake up with the birds and the rest of the sleepy jungle with the first rays of sunlight fluttering through the trees. In downtime between yoga sessions, meals, and excursions, simply enjoy lazy moments in a hammock with a book or snag a nap surrounded by a refreshing, salted breeze. Stand speechless as the sun dips just below the horizon of the ocean and the vibrantly colored sky. Then, polish off the evening with the peaceful hum and chirps of the curious creatures of the night. Leave all responsibilities and worries at the airport gate, as there is no room for them here! 4.  Yoga Of course there will be yoga! You can count on this tropical setting to add dimension and excitement into your yoga practice. Retreats are a special space where individuals can connect, collaborate, try new techniques, and bring renewed focus and presence into their practice. Through a retreat, one is able to extend their practice beyond the mat by living fully immersed and absorbing every ounce that the retreat has to offer. As each day passes, Costa Rica’s incredible beauty draws each participant more into harmony with the nature that surrounds them. The only way to truly feel and know why so many are attracted here to practice is to come experience the magic for yourself! Does this type of retreat call to the core of your being? Join us for a retreat! Come live in a unique, immersive experience of yoga, workshops, healthy eating, learning, playing, and more.

Also See: Is a Yoga Teacher Training For You? and 3 Ways to Transform Your Yoga Practice

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