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September 05, 2018
By Saint Louis Zoo Staff
You may already know that we have beautiful flower and pollinator gardens throughout our grounds, but are you aware that there are many vegetable and herb gardens as well? These specialty gardens help provide nutritious food not only to our animals but our visitors as well.
Browse and Enrichment Gardens
Nearly all of the animals at the Zoo benefit from the enrichment garden. Located in front of the Orthwein Animal Nutrition Center, you will find several medicinal herb gardens. The gardens contain mint, basil, lemongrass, rosemary, fennel and marjoram. These herbs are used for enrichment, which helps keep the animals active and engaged in their habitats. For example, keepers may put herbs in papier-mâché packages that animals can rip up. Keepers also may rub herbs over logs and other parts of a habitat for animals to later find, sniff and enjoy.
The Horticulture Department has trained keepers to be gardeners so they could help harvest plants from the browse garden. Browse is plant material used for animal enrichment and to supplement animal diets. Browse consists of leaves, flowers, and woody portions of trees and shrubs from specific species. Many animals, such as our giraffes, bongos, okapi, elephants, black rhinos, primates and birds, enjoy nibbling on leaves, stripping bark and chewing on stems. In preparation for the colder months, keepers harvest the garden and freeze the browse for use in the winter.
In addition to growing food for the animals, we grow fresh food that we use in our catering!
We have an in-house culinary team that provides catering for certain Zoo events, like the A Zoo Ado fundraiser, as well as private occasions, such as weddings and corporate events. Sous Chef Briana Foresyth has a love for gardening, which inspired her to start a garden here at the Zoo.
The culinary garden now includes ground cherries, sunflowers, tomatoes, dill, thyme, lemongrass, sage, rosemary, cilantro and various varieties of basil and other herbs.
Along with Executive Chef Brett Dorrance, the culinary team will continue to add to the garden. As the culinary garden continues to evolve, keep a look out for new fresh and tasty dishes available to Zoo visitors.