Tanya Himeji Romero of Woodland Pantry, wears Colorant Corfu Dress in the Hudson Valley, NY.
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of fungus that grows on the bark of Birch trees in colder climates. It has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries, often ground up and taken as a tincture, tea or capsule supplement to boost immunity and antioxidants. Its inner orange core produces a mycopigment (natural dyes originating from fungi and lichens) that creates vivid yellows, golds and oranges when extracted.
Tell us a bit about Woodland Pantry and its origin story.
When I first moved to the Catskills in the Spring of 2012, my now husband and I’s dating consisted of us spending time in the wilderness, getting to know plants and mushrooms on the 50 acres of land we care-took. We often trailed off solo to follow our own curiosities only to present each other with special fungal and botanical specimens, which had moved us. It was a magical, beautiful and very sweet time in our lives.
We developed a deep reverence for the abundance that grew around us; our minds continuously blown by the plethora of foods and potent medicines growing all around us. It was an incredibly eye opening and empowering set of realizations. We spent countless days and nights dreaming about creating work for ourselves that helped us and others connect more deeply with nature. We felt passionate about bridging this relation so others could be filled with the inspiration, hope and wonder we were cultivating within ourselves as we lived more intimately and with deeper care for the flora and fauna around us. Woodland Pantry began as an exploratory forest farm on family land. Our intention and desire was to explore ways to work with and thus live in a mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationship with nature.
How has the operation evolved since its start?
Woodland Pantry began as a modest intention to farm the family land and eventually make beautiful products out of what we grew and wildcrafted. Over the years it evolved and became so much more. While my husband’s work particularly deepened in forest stewardship through regenerative management, I took on Woodland Pantry as an outlet for storytelling - serving as a conduit on behalf of my plant ambassadors whom I saw as representatives of the realms of conservation, plant medicine, wild food and emotional companionship. I wove my various passions and skill sets together. Now I communicate my good fight and my deep desire to help others create safety, connection, wonder, purpose and greater fulfillment in their own lives by honoring ourselves and our intuition as our greatest teacher.
From plant walks to botanical product development and creative direction in the wellness space, I create food as medicine experiences through catering and private events. I create spaces, ways, things and dialogues. These are my means of sharing my heart with others. My mediums of expression, informed by the intersection of my heritage and wisdom paths, allow me to extend a sensual experience of healing and self-accountability.
This past Fall, I inaugurated my own food studio in Kingston NY to put into practice all I’ve learned these nearly 2 decades since I left the nest. Come Spring, I will onboard my first employees. Within this food studio method/lab we will practice ways and develop methods to work symbiotically. Our collaborative process intends to be as therapeutic as the product we come together to create. I understand now that Woodland Pantry is especially about energy and space holding- a space holding the deepest consideration for our shared and co-created well-being. It’s a humbling but exciting chapter as I, more intimately than ever, open up my work to others. But to be at the helm of an endeavor that seeks to cultivate presence, care, respect and purpose in aligning with that which we love, is the honor of my lifetime and calls to my spirit and heart.
What are your favorites things to forage?
I love to forage the late Winter/ early Spring greens that grace us once the snow melts. I’m so heartened to witness the return of my flora friends after so many months without them- new green melts me. They are also essential nourishment, offering themselves at such a pivotal time of year to support us in reawakening ourselves and our constitutions after a sleepier and slower season. Throughout the year, I passionately harvest every possible edible flower, often drying them so as to be able to bring magic and that special touch to my food and medicinal preparations in months to come. I particularly like to forage plants that grow generously around us. I have a special relationship with invasive plants. Not simply problematic, I consider them instead, ‘over-abundant and under-utilized’. They are abundant resources to be put to use. It’s a real bonus when you come into a generous harvest of an opportunistic/invasive plant and when you can take as much as possible because it’s the responsible and beneficial thing to do!
Who inspires you?
People who are authentically themselves inspire me. Truly and deeply. It takes courage to not follow the norm and to unapologetically be oneself and those whom brave this self-loving pursuit earnestly move me. It’s taken me 35 years to finally really really feel comfortable in my own skin and it took me years to forge a loving relationship with myself. I’m so thankful for all the beautiful creatures I’ve met throughout my life that earnestly let their truest selves show and shine and whom live comfortably in that, honoring that. Their acceptance and unconditional love for themselves gave me the example, the inspiration and the reflection to ever brave my own deepest and most sincere expression of self.
What are some current books you’re reading?
I am always reading many books at once as I am often holding so many threads in my curiosity and mind. Woodland Pantry is the synthesis and weaving of all these threads.
Broadening my horizons, wisdom and holding me accountable presently are these books: Eating on the Wild Side - Jo Robinson //Understanding Trauma and Dissociation - Lynn Mary Karjala// Creativity, Inc - Ed Catmull
Lastly, am doing some assisted re-reading/ listening to: Belonging, Remembering Ourselves Home - Toko-pa Turner // The Alchemist - Paulo Coehlo