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Getting to Know Acai and Pitaya

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I had no idea what these were until our college-age daughters educated me. I had heard of the acai berry but not pitaya, and I had no idea what these had to do with a bowl. I like noodle bowls and rice bowls but acai and pitaya sounded like a fancy name for a bowl of fruit. And a bowl of fruit is fine, but not something that I get all excited about like I would a warm, soothing, steaming bowl of carbs in a salty broth or smothered in a sweet, salty teriyaki. Salty. That excites me. Frozen fruit, not so much. So our middle daughter who goes to school in LA, land of juicing, blending, raw food, yoga, and acai/pitaya bowls, informed us that we were lacking in the bowl arena. She worked at Living Foods last summer and was so irritated we didn’t have acai or pitaya bowls. So what does a father do? He told her to look into it and figure it out. Lo and behold, we had acai bowls on the menu! Then last month at the Fancy Food Show (I love alliteration), we met a vendor from Maui who was selling frozen pitaya pulp to make pitaya bowls. I still had yet to taste either one of these bowls because I live mostly in the Central Valley of CA (where potatoes are a vegetable) while our youngest daughter finishes school. Back to topic. We tasted the pitaya, loved it, and now it’s on our menu as well. Needless to say, our daughter feels vindicated.

I had my first acai bowl a couple weeks ago while I was on Kauai. I’m not one to eat ice cream, sherbet, or smoothies. I have sensitive teeth and those foods are freezing but I also feel like it’s a lot of calories for something that I don’t get to chew. I don’t like to drink a meal, I want to chew. So that’s where these bowls come in.  They have fresh fruit and a granola-like topping that totally satisfied my need to chew. And the frozen acai on the bottom was like ambrosia. Disney word. It was sweet, tart, smooth, and totally delicious. Our daughter said she likes the pitaya even better but I have to wait to try it when I go back at spring break.

So what are acai and pitaya? Well, acai is a berry that grows on a palm tree in the Amazon rainforest. Doesn’t get any more exotic than that. Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is a fruit that grows on a cactus mostly found in Nicaragua, or so I’m told. Both contain high amounts of antioxidants, which as I mentioned in the chia article, are responsible for fighting free radicals in our body. Here is a good article on antioxidant activity in our body and the benefits. They are harvested and then processed into a frozen pulp. We buy the frozen pulp and then blend it with coconut milk to make the slushy bottom part of the bowl. The granola mixture goes on next, that is topped with fresh fruit and voila, a pitaya or acai bowl. Seriously yummy, lactose and gluten free, vegan, and can be breakfast, lunch, dessert, or snack. I wouldn’t have it for dinner because it probably wouldn’t compliment my wine. But that’s just me. – Liz Sacchini

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