You usually don’t have to look very hard to find edible plants in and around St. Louis. Why? Because most yards, parks and generally grassy areas are full of them. You can pluck flowers or harvest whole plants or branches to make a variety of dishes. Go foraging right in your own backyard and beyond for edible plants you can bring home to use in simple and impressive creations. It’s the perfect stay-at-home activity for nicer-weather Quarantine days.
Start by exploring your immediate outdoor area to see what types of plants and flowers you can forage easily. Or, just add foraging to your next dog walk (just bring along a small baggie or plastic container for collecting). You’d be surprised at how many of these edible ingredients can be found in a simple visual search. These edibles go from easier to harder to find, down the list from Spring to Fall-available.
What you can forage in St. Louis
Dandelions – They aren’t hard to find, with their bright yellow blossoms. Yet most people don’t think about eating them, ever. Liven up your next green salad by picking a few flowers, rinsing them, then tossing them straight in top! Or, sauté with simple herbs or a spice mix.
Try drizzling with infused Olive Oil, then crisping in an air crisper or oven roasting with root vegetables.
Violets – A Missouri native plant, you can find violets growing in lots of lawn spaces, along hiking trails and in parks. The beautiful purple flowers are easy to spot. Violets can be collected, cleaned and mixed with boiling water to create a “Violet Tea”. The tea is a cool blue color that you can use to make a delicious Violet Lemonade.
Redbud Tree Blossoms – Redbud trees are common in St. Louis, and have beautiful flower blossoms in early Spring. Look for them in late-March / early-May.
These vibrant flowers have a delicate mouth-feel. Sprinkle onto a healthy yogurt parfait or fresh garden salad. Be fancy and use to dress up frosting on a cake, cupcakes, or sugar cookies. Toss onto ice cream or sorbet!
Morel Mushrooms – These can be tricky to find, which is why they are so fun to hunt for! Morels appear in and around St. Louis every Spring. The Missouri Department of Conversation recommends hunting for morels near river bottoms in moist wooded areas along a south-facing slope. Or search near dead elm trees, in burned area, or in old orchards.
April is peak season for morel hunting in Missouri. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, and you can usually find them on seasonal menus at some of the best restaurants in town. Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville is an locavores dream that loves using foraged ingredients. Bulrush in St. Louis features foraged ingredients prominently on their menu, too.
If you’re lucky enough to find wild morels, we recommend eating them simply if you just have a few; pan-seared with a little olive oil. For a bigger bounty, the options are endless just like other varieties of mushrooms. You can add morels to most dishes; pizza, pasta, gravy, sauce, tapenade, relish… Or, you can try one of these creative recipes shared by Midwest Living!
Pawpaw – Pawpaw trees can actually be found in Forest Park, and produce a fruit every autumn that has an exotic taste, and unique custardy texture. Pick the fruit in late-September or early-October.
There is an abundance of things that can be foraged for in St. Louis. With a little research, you can find edible plants right in your own backyard, neighborhood park, or even do a little exploring at your next family gathering, to see what’s on your grandparent’s or parent’s property. For more information on foraging and edibles, you can check out the Edible Foraging Group on Facebook, or attend an in-depth class at Missouri Botanical Garden. It’s like grocery shopping in your own backyard!