This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Missouri Botanical Garden pulses with green life: plants, flowers, trees, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Visits to the vast space feel peaceful, but the gardens themselves are also purposeful. They're not just lovely, they're useful and necessary.
That idea runs through the garden's year-long series, Foodology.
"One of the things that Foodology is about is recognizing the role that plants play in our food sources," says Liz Fathman, senior publications manager and co-author of "Missouri Harvest: A guide to growers and producers in the Show-Me state."
"Obviously we eat plants," she says, "but they also feed animals that we eat."
Plants are a foundational part of the food chain, she says, and Foodology wants to help people think about that more and engage them in that thinking, too.
Everyone has opinions about food, Fathman says.
"One of the statistics we like to use is that four out of four people eat," she says.
Through Foodology, the garden is working to engage people in severalways. The social media project "What St. Louis Eats" is one of them. Through it, people have been invited through the end of the summer to submit photos and videos about what they eat. The garden will curate that collection and display it along with the stories that go with those images after the Japanese Festival.
And its daily summer program, Savor Your Summer, offers something new each day for garden visitors. Stop by the visitor's center when you arrive, Fathman says, and pick up a passport where you can collect all the recipes that come with each event. If you get your passport stamped by a volunteer three times, you'll get a tote bag, save it for seven and you'll get a tote bag and a journal, save it for 10, and you'll get a tote bag, a journal, two free passes to the garden and you'll be entered to win dinner for two at the monthly Around the World Wine dinners.
Take a look at what else the garden has in store each day:
Beginning Monday, June 3, and running through Aug. 25, head to the Center for Home Gardening Classroom at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for Celebrity Chef Mondays. There, you’ll find local chefs cooking up goodies to share, offering stories, tips and recipes. Those chefs include Vince Bommarito Jr. of Tony’s, Lou Rook of Annie Gunn’s, Cassy Vires of Home Wine Kitchen, Jeff Galliano of The Libertine, Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe, and Clara Moore of Local Harvest.
On Tuesdays all summer, head to the garden for herbs and heirlooms. Every week, from 10 a.m. to noon, the staff of the garden and people from the St. Louis Herb Society will host presentations in the garden’s Victorian District looking at herbs from around the world. From container gardens to ground plants, visitors this day will explore herbs from China, France and India, among other places.
The first 200 visitors each Tuesday will get an herb to take home, Fathman says, and visitors will also get a recipe that goes along with the herb of the week.
Come with your taste buds ready every Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to noon, head to the Kemper Center for Home Gardening to sample a trio of unusual vegetables. While there, you’ll learn how to plant them yourself, and get a tour of the demonstration fruit and vegetable gardens.
Wednesdays also offer people the chance to speak directly with the garden's horticulturists, Fathman says, to find out how to start seedlings, when to transplant them, and how to prepare them for the seasons.
Every Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m., bring food donations, which will benefit the St. Louis Area Food Bank. The day isn't a symbolic gesture, Fathman says, but a way to help visitors help people around St. Louis and to remind people that food insecurity isn't just an international problem.
"It's an attempt to highlight the problem of food insecurity both locally and globally," she says.
For Food of Our Roots Fridays, you’ll get to wander the garden with a docent to learn about plants that have global food significance. Many of those wanderings will take place in the Climatron, Fathman says, where you'll get to see cocoa plants and vanilla orchids, among others.
Family Food Saturdays happen from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Edible Garden in the Children’s Garden. Here, you can help water the plants, dig in the soil, and sample what’s growing, including patty pan squash, cucumber, cantaloupe, pie pumpkin, basil and cilantro.
Admission to all the week's events are included in garden admission, except for Sundays. At week's end, you can get spicy with samples around the garden that use common and uncommon spices. You do have to pay for those snacks, which are paired with drinks, Fathman says.
In addition to the daily events, the garden's also offering a monthly film series the second Thursday of the month, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The first, "In Organic We Trust," airs on Thursday, June 13, in the Shoenberg Auditorium. For more information on the daily offerings of Foodology, go to www.mobot.org.