From patacones to chiliguaro shots, eating (and drinking!) local Costa Rican Food makes your experience that much more memorable. In our globalized world, nearly every cuisine and food product is available to us at any season and anywhere we want it. At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we choose to slow it down and eat the food that is grown in and around our community of Bahia Ballena. We find that it is a happier and healthier choice for ourselves and our planet.
Eating local in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica
Cutting open a fresh papaya in the tropics is basically akin to a spiritual experience. In our hometown of Bahia Ballena, the process goes a little something like this…
- Step one: Wander the stalls at the weekly Wednesday fería (Farmer’s Market). Say hello to the friendly and familiar faces of the farmers selling local produce.
- Step two: Select a perfect, ripe, ready-to-eat pale green or yellow-skinned papaya.
- Step three: Bike home with a heavy bag full of local fruits and veggies.
- Step four: Head straight to the kitchen. Grab a knife and let it fall through the smooth texture of the papaya exposing, the vibrant orange fruit within.
- Step five: Slice and dice till your bowl is practically overflowing. Add a quick squeeze of lime and some passion fruit seeds on top, and enjoy this perfect bowl of Costa Rican magic!
This is the experience of eating local. A fresh fruit that was grown nearby, picked ripe, and during peak season. Eating local is a daily habit here at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, and our guests get to experience the local cuisine and produce every day so that they are fueled up and ready for their adventures in Costa Rica.
Why does eating local matter?
On average, our food travels 1500 miles (2400 km) to get to us. That amounts to an incredible amount of freshness lost, carbon emitted, and money spent outside of our local economy.
Here are Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s top 5 reasons for keeping our food as close to home as possible:
- Local food fuels a healthy body! Buying local produce means buying fresher produce. Fruits and vegetables that have been picked at the peak of ripeness have had the time to develop many key nutrients. When there is a long delay between harvest and consumption many of those nutrients are lost. Produce that has traveled from across the world has been harvested days if not weeks early and has ripened artificially. Eating local and seasonal foods ensures peak nutrient intake to fuel your healthy body!
- Local food is better for the environment! Buying and supporting local foods is a sure way to lower your environmental impact. According to a study by the University of Michigan, food accounts for 10-30% of a typical western family’s carbon footprint. The conventional, globalized industry of food production and transportation releases harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, which are heavily contributing to global climate change. The same study found that eliminating food transport (i.e. eating local) for one year could save the equivalent of driving 1,000 miles (1600 km). Buying local reduces food miles and keeps the planet happy!
- Local food supports local farmers and the local economy! When we purchase food from familiar faces in and around Bahia Ballena, we are directly supporting our local economy. Small, organic farms often struggle making ends meet trying to compete with the big supermarket chains that are selling cheap, genetically-modified, and pesticide-laden produce. By making the choice to spend money within our own community we can contribute to the success of local farmers and promote healthy, sustainable farming practices. Plus there’s the added fun of chatting and asking questions at the farmers market!
- Local food tastes better! Eating fruits and veggies in the places and seasons they are meant to be eaten pretty much guarantees peak “yummm” factor. This is for many of the reasons listed above but mostly because native and local produce is just more natural. It is grown in the same environment and community we are a part of. When you can shorten the time between farm and table, you are eating fresher, higher-quality food. Eat local and taste the difference!
- Local food fosters connections! Eating local does not have to mean only fruits and vegetables. Eating local also means eating local dishes and cuisine and it can be a wonderful way to connect to people and place. The food culture and food history of Costa Rica is a beautiful part of fully experiencing this part of the world. Local food is food for the soul!
Eating local while in Costa Rica
When we travel to a new city or country, trying to navigate the food scene can be quite daunting. But to really experience a new place (or even to connect more with wherever home is) we have to expand our horizons a little bit and try new things. Whether you are someone who is determined to find that local flavor or you are a bit nervous about tastes and preferences, eating local while traveling is possible for everyone, especially in Costa Rica. With staples like rice and beans, fresh flavors of citrus and herbs, and very little spice, Costa Rican food is easy to love. So stop in at that small cafe, try the street food cart that has a crowd, go to the local markets and buy something fresh and delicious and new!
At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, part of the adventure is the food, so that’s why we are excited to serve Costa Rican dishes that represent the flavors and flair of the place we call home. We also encourage guests to stop in at our favorite local haunts, and to shop at the Wednesday market and try new fruits and veggies. Eating local is a wonderful way to connect to culture, support the economy, and travel responsibly.
Eat local at Bodhi Surf + Yoga
One of the best sights at Bodhi Surf + Yoga (beyond the occasional sloth, monkey, or parrot) is seeing Adrianne and Fanny jamming in the kitchen while working on Gallo Pinto, plátanos maduros, or a fresh cocktail. Adrianne is usually bopping around to some new wave Latin fusion genre. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch Fanny showing off her moves to some Bachata or Merengue. But what makes it one of the best sights is that you can catch a glimpse of them cooking their specialties — gorgeous, local Costa Rican food.
Virginia Woolf is coined with the phrase, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” and we could not agree more. With full bellies, we can accomplish incredible feats!
A few Costa Rican culinary specialties
Here’s a look at some of our favorite Costa Rican dishes that are featured on our weekly menu:
- Gallo Pinto: there is nothing more Tico than this, the national dish of Costa Rica. A favorite dish that combines rice, beans, onions, red pepper, cilantro, and is topped off with the very special (and very tico!) salsa Lizano.
- Plantains (maduros and patacones): when twice fried and mashed into disks, green plantains are transformed into patacones and often served with refried black beans or chimichurri. When extra ripe and sautéed, plantains are called maduros and are a delicious sweet and salty side dish.
- Casado Típico: the “marriage” between rice and beans continues with this traditional dish found in every soda (local cafe) around the country. Rice, beans, salad, meat or fish, and plantains make up this full plate served for lunch or dinner.
- Chimichurri: called “pico de gallo” elsewhere, this is a wonderful salsa of tomato, onion, and cilantro and is served with everything from patacones to eggs
- Palmito: Costa Rican hearts of palm. A delicacy in the U.S., palmito is a classic Costa Rican accompaniment to salads and casados
- Tons of fresh fruit: papaya, pineapple, bananas, mango, passionfruit, mamón chino (“rambutan”), mangosteen
Finding ways to eat local at home
For those of us living at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, eating local is a delicious choice we make because we think it matters. If you do too, here are some resources to help you eat local no matter where you call home:
- Learn about Local & Regional Food Systems from Sustainable Table: these food systems help local, sustainably-run farms, protect consumer health, contribute to the health of the local community, and stimulate local economies
- Learn about Community Supported Agriculture: allows consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer
- Check out these seasonal ingredient maps to find out what’s fresh in your area: Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map
- Take the Nourish Life food literacy quiz to test your knowledge and learn about making informed decisions
- Find out what fish are local to your region (United States) at Fishwatch
Written by Sheridan Plummer