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Published on: Sep. 20, 2011

wild harvest is showcased, complete with menu, hostesses, black tie apparel, uniquely flavored soups, breads and delicate wild teas. The team shares interesting tidbits of information about the wild plants used for the evening’s fare and then our guests are invited to sample the main entrées. We conclude the evening with storytelling and music, sipping tea and taste-testing scrumptious desserts—all made from wild plants of course!

In each program, Frances shares a few ideas on where plants can be collected legally and safely. She cautions foragers to make absolutely sure that collecting is legal on a chosen area, and to avoid areas where pesticides have been used or salts and chemicals have been applied to roadways. One of the first lessons she learned as a young girl was to take a little, and leave a little behind for the next visitor. She also advises them to make a note on the location of the plant, so that they can find it again next year. She makes absolutely certain that the seed of conservation ethics is planted in the minds of her participants.

Frances and her Wild Ones teach their audience that foraging for edible wild plants is much more than adding interest and variety to our dinner table. This activity offers an incredible portal into the wilderness—to observe the world of a white-tailed deer, to hear the unique melody of a songbird, or to witness that field of native grasses decorated by the morning dew. It is a way to rediscover your own delight in the natural world and connect with others. Take the time to share this experience with your family and friends, children especially, and share in the legacy of Frances Mathews.

Foraging Tips and Safety

Nothing compares to the satisfaction of foraging for wild edible plants for the dinner table. Even in a fast-paced world, this activity creates a deeper understanding of nature and encourages a stronger connection to our ancestors and history—it’s also just plain fun.

Before you head into the forest, there are a few important points to remember: When foraging for wild plants, you must be able to positively identify a plant before you collect it. If you are not absolutely sure, leave it alone. Even if you are certain of your identification, a great rule of thumb is to taste only a very small amount when sampling a plant you have never tasted before.

There are lots of places where you can collect wild edible plants—along a creek, in the forest, on the prairie, in a field, even in your own back yard! Respect private property. Do not venture on to land without obtaining landowner permission. If you would like to forage on public lands, know the regulations that govern that area first. When you find the perfect place, make sure you find out whether pesticides have been used in the area and always wash your plants before you eat them.

Most important of all, make sure you collect only what you need. You are conservation! Leave some behind. Each plant species plays an important role in the ecosystem. Next year, when you go out, you will be one step ahead. You will know exactly where to find these delicious treasures. Happy hunting!

Cooking Wild in Missouri

The Conservation Department now offers a colorful new cookbook that emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients in tempting appetizers, fresh salads, savory stews, elegant entrees and delectable desserts.

Cooking Wild in Missouri, created by author Bernadette Dryden, can be purchased for $15 plus shipping and handling, and sales tax (where applicable) by calling toll free 877-521-8632 or visiting You may also visit locations in our nature centers and field offices where MDC products are sold. See Page 3 for regional phone numbers to call for a location near you.

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