Edges. An Alaskan Journey.

As I start to wrap up my fifth summer of solo travels, I can’t help but look back on the journey so far. Five years ago I hopped in my Subaru and explored through all the western states, traveling alone for the first time in my life. It was eye opening and life-changing, which led to more and more adventures and stories to tell. (Have I told you about that time with the bear..?)

This summer I was ready to push myself a little bit more and the solitude of Alaska was calling (but was hard pressed to actually find much of that). I had originally planned to rent a Jeep and take ten days to trek up and back down the Dalton Highway just to dip my toes in the Arctic Ocean, and maybe a few nights backpacking in the Gates of the Arctic NP. But with the car rental shortage issue I wasn’t able to make it happen this time, so I had to come up with some other plans.

My mom was not too thrilled with my choice of adventure this year and was convinced that I would be eaten by a grizzly bear (by the way, I felt waaaaay safer in Alaska than I ever do in California). Even though I have no problem traveling alone in the wilderness and taking care of myself, I realize there are still so many more of my personal edges to push. I ran up against one of those edges I just couldn’t cross this time around. One of my biggest fears is flying and it took 15 years to overcome just to get on a commercial flight.
In a moment of courage, I booked the last spot for a flight on a float plane that left at 5:45am the next morning to Kenai peninsula to watch and photograph bears feeding on salmon in the river. However, the weather turned bad within those later hours and the pilot canceled the flight. Disappointed I headed back north hoping the weather there was better before it was time to go home. It came highly recommended to do a flight seeing tour of Denali on a small plane and my adventurous spirit was ready to take on the challenge especially with my fancy new camera lens in hand. But, my mind had too much time to overthink it and couldn’t make it happen.

If we could do it all in one fell swoop, life wouldn’t be that exciting. Leave a little something for the next time.

Denali National Park

Exit Glacier Hike

Northwestern Glacier/Fjords Wildlife Tour

All photos copyright Jess Starwood 2021.

Healing with Native Plants Workshop & Wild Food Lunch

In this full day workshop, Dr. Jim Adams will teach about native medicinal plants on a local trail in the morning, followed by a workshop in the afternoon to learn how to make medicine from these important plants. Jess Starwood will offer a gourmet tasting of local wild foods and beverages for lunch.

Jim Adams has a PhD in Pharmacology and studied with a Chumash Indian Healer for 14 years. In this class, he will teach medicinal plant identification and uses. You will be able to make a powerful pain liniment for your own use. You will be taught how to cure chronic pain. You will also be able to learn the uses of several other plants for other conditions. His book “Healing with medicinal plants of the west” will be available for purchase.

Jess Starwood is an herbalist, forager and plant based chef in the Los Angeles area. She has a Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine and training in holistic nutrition and mycology. She offers exclusive multi-course wild food dinners and teaches herbalism and wild food classes and workshops for adults and children.

September 18, 2021
Walnut Creek, CA
10am – 4pm

$125
Payment via Venmo is preferred. Contact us for other available options.

Registration: Please complete the form below and send in your registration fee via Venmo @theforesttable . Your registration is not complete and space reserved until your payment has been received. We look forward to having you!

Baja Botanical: 7 Day Adventure in Baja California Sur

Join herbalist, forager and chef Jess Starwood along with botanist and herbalist Dennis Sharmahd on a seven day adventure to southern Baja California Sur, Mexico, to explore wild foods and herbal medicines this unique yet diverse region offers.

The Food: We will eat fresh local, organic foods directly from farms and ecovillages that we visit, along with unique and unusual edible plants as we adventure through the landscape. Herbalist, forager and chef Jess Starwood will prepare and serve healthy, plant-based meals each day. You are welcome to bring your own snacks and supplementary foods.

The Plants (& Mushrooms): There are many unique, rare and endemic plants that inhabit this region. From the multitude of edible cacti fruits such as Pitaya Agria Stenocereus gummosus, and Pitaya Dulce Lemaireocereus thurberi, unique fruits such as Desert Honey Persimmon Diospyros intricata, Melon de Coyote Ibervillea sonorae, Wild Plum Cyrtocarpa edulis, and Baja Black Sapote Diospyros californica, plus the multitude of herbs Damiana Turnera diffusa, Copal Bursera empanada & hindsiana, Baja Bouillon Bush Cordia curassavica, Desert Passionfruit Passiflora arida, plus the low-tannin Encino Negro Quercus brandegeei for some acorn pancakes. We will seek to find as many as possible throughout our adventure. There is also a possibility of finding wild mushrooms as well if the season allows for it.

The Adventures: During our time together we will visit breathtaking waterfalls, crystal clear natural pools, eco-farms, camp out, secluded hot springs and snorkel in coral reefs with an excursion to the higher elevation mountain region for an overnight backpacking trip.

See our trip report and photos from the Foraging Baja 2019 adventure.

TENTATIVE ITINERARY:*

1st Day. Arrival in Los Cabos Mexico. Drive to our base camp and Nature Cabins at the base of Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve.

2nd Day. Hiking up the canyon we are staying at. Exploring some of the 88 endemic species of plants of the area. Then jumping into the waterfall pool to cool off.

3rd Day. Visit to a small eco community on a permaculture mango farm. Then up the road to a hot spring and waterfalls.

4th Day. Go to the largest river in southern Baja. Check out some eco ranches. Then start hiking up the mountain trail with an overnight camp out.

5th Day. Continue exploring all the rare plants and trees in the higher elevations and amazing crystal clear pools. Then heading back down and to the cabins.

6th Day. Head to one more canyon. This one has a sweet hot spring pool. Chill day exploring around the springs and up the river to natural swimming pools.

7th Day. Beach day. Drive to a protected bay with a large Coral Reef. Go swimming with the fishes. Bring a mask and snorkel. Then on the way back we will stop at a Botanical garden for lunch and a tour of the gardens.

8th Day. Pack up to head home and the Airport. 😢 Possibly time in the morning to go for a short walk around the Eco Ranch we have been using for a base camp.

*Itinerary subject to change with weather conditions etc.

Due to increased interest in this trip, we are taking applications. Once approved, your payment secures your spot in this trip. Venmo or check payments are preferred.

Cost: $2,200 includes all accommodations and three meals per day during the trip. Does not include airfare or required travel insurance.

November 5-12th, 2021
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Airport: San Jose Los Cabos

Art of Wild Food: Photography + Plating Workshop with Foraged Fare

They say we “eat with our eyes” and research even supports the fact that food that looks good, tastes good. Join forager, herbalist and chef Jess Starwood in an immersive full day workshop for hands-on experience plating and shooting a picture perfect dish. This immersive and comprehensive workshop introduces chefs and home cooks alike to useful and creative techniques to enhance your food stories whether for documentation or to stand out in our heavily visual world of media.

Topics covered:

Composition
Developing a food concept
Color Theory
Plating techniques using seasonal wild foods
Visual balance
Garnishes
Texture
Working with light and shadow
Essential and non-essential photography gear
Natural & artificial lighting
Setting up a photo studio
Selecting and using props
Developing your style
Post-editing

Students will be assigned three photo challenges to complete in class using wild foods and receive constructive feedback to improve technique and develop style.

Requirement: You must bring your own digital camera (DSLR, point and shoot, smart phone) that you can email the files to the instructor during class to be used in the showcase at the end of the day for feedback. It will be very helpful to have basic knowledge of how your camera works.

Optional: You may bring your own props (plates, bowls, silverware, linens) but not required.

Date & Time: September 12, 2021 10am-5pm
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA (no virtual option available at this time)

Class Registration Fee: $225
Payment is required to hold your space in class. Please send via Venmo to @theforesttable Questions on payment methods? Email jess@jstarwood.com

Your instructor:

Jess Starwood
Before devoting her life to wild food and herbal medicine, Jess Starwood completed her undergraduate degree in art and design at California State University Channel Islands. She spent many years as a freelance designer and art director working with high end clients in the luxury hotel and resort industry. While no longer designing or photographing as her main focus, it remains the vehicle which has helped to capture the essence of her work in wild food. Her dramatic photography and whimsically styled dishes have graced the cover of Edible Ojai & Ventura County multiple times and was named one of the most creative chefs in Ventura County. She is the author and photographer of the upcoming Mushroom Wanderland: A Forager’s Guide to Finding, Identifying and Using More than 25 Fungi, available from Countryman Press.

Registration:

Class size is limited for direct teacher instruction. Payment secures your spot in class. Venmo preferred.

Date & Time: September 12, 2021 10am-5pm
Location: Thousand Oaks, CA (no virtual option available at this time)

Class Registration Fee + Wild-Inspired Lunch: $325
Payment is required to hold your space in class. Please send via Venmo to @theforesttable Questions on payment methods? Email jess@jstarwood.com

The Shaman

The shaman put the blindfold over my eyes. Lying on my back, I was instructed to let out a slow deep breath, and then another. Silence settled in, filling every pocket of space around me and I noticed the rhythm of my heartbeat. As the shaman began to shake the rattle nearly at the same pace as the internal metronome, I felt a pinched muscle in my neck from the angle of the pillow behind my head, but thought it would be disrupting to move.

I don’t quite recall exactly how I found myself making an appointment with the shaman and showing up at her secluded home in a remote woodland canyon, but I had come to the end of a long journey and I was desperate for answers that I didn’t have the courage to speak for myself.

I was ready for death. The death of a path that I had completed and which no longer served my soul’s journey in this life. I also wanted answers—I wanted to know that there was something worth the pain and anguish that was waiting for me on the other side. I wanted to be assured that there in fact was life after this impending death.

The rattle was getting louder and accompanied by a second, followed by incoherent words and phrases that were quietly, then loudly chanted. Rather than dropping into a dream-like state as I was lightly instructed to allow, I became hyper focused on the pinch in my neck that was worsening by the second. The stabbing pain was all I could feel or think about—I wished for the session to end but it was to last for at least one hour, or maybe more.

I wanted so badly to move. Even just to shift slightly. But I was immobilized by the fear of interrupting the healer in the middle of her trance state. I wished for death rather than to speak up. I instructed myself to focus on the rhythm of the rattle and drift off, but to no avail. After an excruciating hour the shaman was finished and the rattles came to a stop, the room fell silent once again. Finally, I shifted and stretched my neck, finding immediate relief, but the horror of having wasted hundreds of dollars for an uncomfortable hour-long neck ache. As the shaman came to, I could see a bit of surprise in her face at my swift alertness and she asked about the visions I saw. I had spent the entire time focusing on and fretting about my pain that I missed the experience completely. I said I couldn’t remember. She recounted the visions that came to her during the session—something abstract about a tiger, a butterfly, and a flowing river.

My frustrations escalated as I quietly gathered my belongings and thanked her before leaving for the long drive home to the life I was trying to escape from. It was many years later that I realized that the lesson I received was profound even though I didn’t have the sort of mystical experience I was expecting. Countless times in my life I have not spoken up when put into an uncomfortable situation, more worried about the other person’s feelings than my own well-being. It cost me my entire past life, rather than a few moments of discomfort for someone else. I missed out on the experience at hand while being preoccupied and trapped in the uncomfortable situation because I couldn’t speak up. This lesson brought an awareness of my patterns of a lifetime of self-betrayal.

Is it more important to be liked so as not to disrupt the other person, or to speak your truth even if it pushes others away? Being alone isn’t all that frightening—I’ve known loneliness my whole life and haven’t died of it just yet. I’d rather form deep relationships around honesty and truth instead of superficial niceties just because that’s what “we’re supposed to do.” I have found that I’m certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay, not everyone is meant to. I do things a bit differently and I continue to walk in two very different worlds. Being a good human is more than being only good to everyone else—I have to be good and honest with myself too. However, there is always still more work to be done.

The Guardians of Mojave

Thank you to the desert for this short story.

“The Guardians”

The sun lingered, still bright and glaring in the late afternoon yet dipping down past the ridge line of the western bluffs. To the east, the shadows of the cholla and dried shrubs began stretching across the rugged canyon. Dusk was still a few hours out. Methodically, I set up camp for the night, in mid wood chopping, I paused. The doves softly cooed in the distance. The muted whisper of the wind through the blades of the nearby yucca. A smile a thousand miles wide spread across my face—there it was, the absence of human sound. No background whir of freeway traffic, no lawnmowers or leaf blowers, or barking dogs. The city was long gone. Only the occasional distant yips and song of coyote punctuated the aural landscape. That was what I came here for.

As the last orange rays of light evaporated from the canyon floor, leaving behind a blanket of violet and and indigo hues, I saw their shadowed figures standing motionless in the distance. Huddled together, they conversed about the stranger who had arrived. Whispering to each other, they were curious, but kept their distance and watched me as I started a small campfire. As I warmed my hands I returned their gaze. Soon the cold evening winds picked up—ushering me to seek warmth inside the shelter of my camper instead. I doused the remaining embers and closed up camp, but not without bidding goodnight to the figures who contentedly kept watch through the dark hours under a moonless star-studded sky.

I was awoken by the far off yips of the coyotes deeper in the canyon and the faintest glimmer of a fast approaching morning peeking in through the east facing window. Who would pass up a desert sunrise if they have the chance? What starts as a slow burning ember along the horizon, explodes into a roaring wildfire of colors stretching madly across the sky.

Edging open the door, bracing myself for that blast of crisp desert morning wind, I saw what I expected but no less filled with awe as if it were the first I had ever witnessed. I took it all in. As the light seeped into the desert, first among the neighboring ragged cliffs and then into the crevices between the cacti and dusty rocks, there they were. Huddled again, the shadowed figures casting sideways glances likely wondering if I had made it through the night. I poured myself a cup of tea, and through the rising steam I greeted them and thanked them for allowing a stranger to share their company for the night.

Medicinal Mushrooms Workshop

Why medicinal mushrooms and what do they do? Are they even worth it? What’s hype and what’s science behind medicinal mushrooms? Learn how fungi can support balance in the body, mind and community.

Mushrooms have been used by humans from the beginning of time yet they still capture our attention and fascination. Even modern science has taken note. But what makes them so alluring?

Learn all about the uses and benefits of the popular cultivated fungi and others that you can find locally in the wild of Southern California. What is the science behind them and how effective are they?

We will discuss the health benefits of: reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, maitake, lion’s mane, fly agaric, and psilocybe, and how they interact with our immune system and work to restore balance in our lives.

Each participant will take home a double extraction tincture we made in class, plus samples of different mushroom extract powders.

Medicinal mushroom based snacks and beverages will be provided.

Masks and social distancing required.

Jess Starwood is an author, herbalist, chef and mushroom hunter. She has a Master’s degree in Herbal Medicine and author of Mushroom Wanderland: A Forager’s Guide to Finding, Identifying, and Using More Than 25 Wild Fungi available August 2021. See more on instagram @jess.starwood or jstarwood.com

March 27th, 2021
4:00-6:00pm
Thousand Oaks, CA (Exact location to be provided after registration)
$75 per person, includes materials, food and beverage


To Register:
$75 (includes materials fees) paid via VENMO @theforesttable (preferred) and please submit the form below:

No refunds one week prior to event. When full, waitlist will be available.

Mushrooms of Los Angeles + Beyond

Thursday, March 11, 2021
5:00pm PST
Live via ZOOM, class will be recorded for registered attendees

Despite its dry climate, Southern California is a diverse habitat for fungi. From the medicinal turkey tail mushroom, to delicious chanterelles and southern candy caps, to the toxic destroying angel mushroom, this class will help you identify and discern these and many other interesting species you are likely to encounter in the local neighborhoods, parks and woodlands in the greater Los Angeles area.

This online class covers :

  • Mushroom identification skills and resources
  • Top edible mushrooms found in Southern California
  • Ideal fungi habitats, seasons and weather patterns
  • Toxic species to avoid
  • Local medicinal mushrooms and their uses
  • Ethics of foraging and environmental concerns regarding mushroom hunting

After class, you will receive a full-color high-resolution identification guide of 15 common mushrooms to look for in Southern California plus recipes featuring these mushrooms.

If you can’t make it live, the class will be recorded for paid attendees and can be viewed at your leisure.

Jess Starwood, herbalist, forager and chef, creates an innovative yet traditional approach to herbal medicine, wild foods and connecting the community with our local natural environment. She was recognized as one of the most creative chefs in Ventura County by Edible Ojai & Ventura County magazine in December 2019 and has worked with Michelin-starred chefs in Los Angeles, CA to bring nutritious, wild foods to the table. Not only sharing a love for unique and unusual foods, Jess strives to help students cultivate an intimate, sustainable and connected relationship with the land. She is the author of Mushroom Wanderland: A Forager’s Guide to Finding, Identifying, and Using More than 25 Species of Fungi available August 17, 2021 from Countryman Press. Instagram @jess.starwood and jstarwood.com

TICKETS & REGISTRATION

Mushrooms of Los Angeles & Beyond
March 11th, 5:00pm PST
$30

To register and secure your spot in this class, please complete the form below and send payment of $30 via VENMO to @theforesttable Your link will be sent to the email address you provide below.

Gather: Food, Medicine, & Dye

Weekend Workshop and Wild Food Dinner

June 19-20, 2021 • Trout Lake, Washington

Join foragers Julie Beeler, Lorelle Sherman and Jess Starwood for an unforgettable weekend in the woods where you will learn plant and mushroom identification, fabric dyeing with foraged plants, and a locally sourced six-course gourmet wild food dinner in celebration of the Summer Solstice. Located in Trout Lake, Washington at the base of Mt. Adams, the area is rich with edible and medicinal plants and fungi that will be collected and used throughout the weekend.

This workshop will take place on occupied territory of Yakama people. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Peacekeepers Society, a nonprofit founded in the mobilization of Yakama Nation ‘tribal trainers and wisdom keepers’ to promote positive social change for Native youth and adults.


Plant Identification and Foraging with Lorelle Sherman

The Pacific Northwest gifts us a bounty of wild foods in the spring and summer months, from roots to shoots, berries, greens, and possibly even mushrooms! We will get intimate with the local landscape by learning to identify, utilize, and sustainably harvest local and seasonal wild ingredients.

Through hands-on experience in the field, you will learn how to identify common native and invasive wild foods that you can confidently harvest on your next outdoor adventure. We will work through basic plant identification, ethical foraging practices, and easy and delicious ways to prepare and preserve your newfound wild ingredients. Group taste-testing and wild tea drinking will bring these local flavors to life. Come prepared for an easy hike and bring cloth, mesh, or paper bags to bring any foraged treats home with you for further flavor exploration.


Six-Course Wild Food Dinner with Jess Starwood

Forager, herbalist and wild food chef Jess Starwood will be serving a hand-crafted gourmet six-course dinner and drinks on Sunday night, celebrating the culmination of the event and the Summer Solstice. We will be enjoying an intimate experience with the local environment through new tastes, textures and wild flavors.

As you dine among the trees, each course tells a story about the land around you and the current season. Little to no processing of foods preserve their natural flavors and allow their unique subtleties shine through. This elegantly presented meal is crafted from locally sourced wild and organically farmed ingredients, completely plant-based and gluten-free.


Wild Plant Dye Workshop with Julie Beeler

Discover the alchemy of natural dyes and explore the bounty of botanical palettes. The serendipity of painting with plants combined with the ancient traditions of natural dyes yields unique and colorful results.

Working with plants that you forage in the wild along with Bloom & Dye’s locally grown flowers, you will gain knowledge and insight all while experimenting with the art of natural color.

We will be exploring a variety of ways to work with natural dyes; creating botanical bundles and prints, and making dye baths to create rich color palettes. Everyone will try their hand at different Japanese shibori traditions. Each participant will receive a variety of different natural fabrics to test and dye along with a linen foraging satchel to experiment with different colors, palettes and patterns. The custom instructional craftbook will allow everyone to continue their exploration at home.


About Your Instructors:

Julie Beeler, artist, designer and educator, grew up with a deep love and curiosity for the natural world. Educating others on how plants, fungi and their colors reflect the beauty of nature is something she is moved to share as a way to inspire care, stewardship and impact. Her work is bound up in the landscape; every thread is infused with botanical energy, as she gently simmers Mother Nature to unlock her colors. Drawing on cultural traditions and ancient natural dye histories each textile object is a record of a place and time, reflecting our relationship to the natural world. She has been recognized with numerous awards throughout her career as a designer of interpretive, editorial, and educational content, that supported cultural vitality with a commitment to preservation and conservation.
Instagram @bloomanddye and bloomanddye.com

Jess Starwood, herbalist, forager and chef, creates an innovative yet traditional approach to herbal medicine, wild foods and connecting the community with our local natural environment. She was recognized as one of the most creative chefs in Ventura County by Edible Ojai & Ventura County magazine in December 2019 and has worked with Michelin-starred chefs in Los Angeles, CA to bring nutritious, wild foods to the table. Not only sharing a love for unique and unusual foods, Jess strives to help students cultivate an intimate, sustainable and connected relationship with the land.
Instagram @jess.starwood and jstarwood.com

Lorelle Sherman Lorelle is a forest ecologist, naturalist, and wild foods forager who weaves conservation and ecology into her teaching. She has been foraging and teaching for over ten years in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Lorelle has a BS in Wildlife Biology and a MS in Forest Ecology. Since arriving in Oregon in 2015, she has worked with government agencies, private timber, and non-profit groups to develop and implement wildlife habitat and vegetation studies from the Oregon Coast to the western Cascades. Throughout her career, she has prioritized environmental education and science communication as a way to help others build meaningful connections with the natural world. Instagram @lorellemorel and lorellemorel.com


EVENT DETAILS

SATURDAY
10am Welcome & Introductions
11am-4pm Foraging with Lorelle Sherman
6-8pm 6 course Wild Food Dinner with Jess Starwood

SUNDAY
10am-3pm Dye Workshop with Julie Beeler

Lodging is not included in this event. Some great local options:

Elk Meadows
Trout Lake Valley Inn
Cozy Cabins
Trout Creek Campground
Peterson Prairie Cabin
Guler Mt Adams Park

COVID-19 Protocol: 

  • If you are sick or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with anyone who is sick/experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, in the 14 days prior to the workshop, please do not attend. Send us an email and we will work out a solution. 
  • We will be following Washington State COVID-19 protocols, guidelines and recommendations at the time of the workshop. 
  • You will need to bring and wear your own mask or face covering. 
  • Please maintain 6ft of physical distance from any other workshop participant who is not in your immediate household at all times.
  • Dinner will be served out doors with no more than 6 people per table from two households. 
  • The workshop is limited to 12 participants + 3 instructors and will primarily take place outdoors with the exception of some botanical dyeing taking place in our indoor 1,300 sq. ft. studio space. 
  • We will provide all individual tools and set up in personal stations to avoid unnecessary sharing of items. 
  • The studio space will be sanitized both days and will have plenty of soap and hand sanitizer on hand. We will provide disposable gloves for those who wish to use them.

TICKETS

GATHER: Food • Medicine • Dye
June 19-20, 2021
Limited to 12 participants.
$400/person + $25 materials fee if registered before May 19, 2021
$450/person + $25 materials fee if registered after May 19, 2021

We are currently SOLD OUT

To be added to the wait list, please submit the form below:

Refund Policy
No refunds after 7 days prior to the event.