Edible flowers are nothing new, and edible dirt has been a thing for a few years, but now more and more chefs are playing with blooms beyond the common nasturtium, and farmers are getting hip to the idea that herbs and vegetables with flowering stalks sell really well at the markets. "Someone figured out that if you grow sage, and you just leave it in the field for an extra two weeks until it flowers and then pick it, you can charge a dollar or two more per pound," says chef Matt Accarrino at SPQR. "And everyone, myself included, will pay for it." He noticed that a bunch of vendors had flowering this and that at the Marin Farmers' Market this weekend, and we too have noted an upsurge in chive blossoms on pizzas, and pretty cornflowers adorning cocktails at every turn.
Flowers have moved beyond mere garnish in dishes to actually imparting specific and subtle flavors of their own, and most chefs would tell you they wouldn't be using them if it weren't for both their flavor and the aesthetics they add. Sebastopol Microgreens is one of the local vendors who sells a variety of edible flowers including violas, edible carnations, and lemon chrysanthemums to Bay Area chefs, including Dustin Valette at Dry Creek Kitchen, and Jason Berthold at RN74, who's been pairing chive blossoms with everything from oysters to crudos. Chefs like Accarrino and Coi's Daniel Patterson do some of their own foraging, and Accarino says he now goes looking for plants with unopened buds, like wild mustard, and then keeps a "living garden" in his kitchen in which flowers are continuously opening up for use in his dishes.
Check out our slideshow of some of these edible-flower varieties and some recent dishes featuring them at local restaurants.
Related: The Dirt on Edible Dirt