The Rise of Microgreens and Edible Flowers

Bask Farm’s 50-count flower mix box is filled with herbs and summer blooms, including cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, feverfews, yarrows, nigellas, and bachelor’s buttons. Photos courtesy of Bask Farm

Thinking Outside the [Planter] Box

Once relegated to health food stores and gourmet grocers, microgreens and edible flowers have come a long way. Today, they’re making a splash in the culinary world, adding unexpected pops of flavor and color to both sweet and savory dishes.

Chanel Cameron began operating Bask Farm in 2020 in Wilton. There, she grows more than a dozen varieties of organic microgreens, from nutty sunflower to peppery radish, and supplies them to home cooks and restaurants throughout the Sacramento area.

A former dietitian, Cameron says not only are microgreens delicious, but they’re also nutritious, packing 40 to 50 times the nutrients of their full-grown counterparts.

“All the nutrition is concentrated. They’re like little vitamins,” she says.

Although the terms “microgreens” and “sprouts” often are used interchangeably, the products are not the same. Microgreens are the first leaves a plant produces, while sprouts are germinated seeds.

Cameron began her farm with microgreens, but the pandemic required her to shift gears. People were celebrating at home more, and she saw an increased demand for edible flowers such as cosmos, zinnias, nasturtiums, and violas.

“People were looking to add sparkle to their day. Edible flowers took off,” she says.

Angela Pratt, owner of The Plant Foundry in Oak Park, is a self-professed foodie and says she wanted her nursery to appeal to fellow foodies. She carries edible flower seeds and starts as well as certified organic microgreen seed mixes, ranging from the tame (broccoli, kohlrabi, bok choy) to the spicy (mustard, cress, radish).

“The blends are fun; some are peppery, some are more mellow. All are certified organic,” Pratt says.

Pratt says microgreens have been gaining in popularity in recent years, thanks, in part, to their simplicity. They can easily be grown indoors with the help of a grow dome, a mini greenhouse, and, if needed, grow lights.

“They’re great for people who have limited space, such as urban farmers,” she says.

Summer birthday brownies garnished with fresh and dried edible flowers. Photo courtesy of Bask Farm

While edible flowers most often are seen atop cakes or tossed into salads, they have many other uses as well. Nasturtium leaves can be blended into pesto. Lavender buds can be baked into shortbread. Borage blossoms can be frozen into ice cubes. Some flowers, such as squash blossoms and daylilies, can even be stuffed with cheese.

“Microgreens and edible flowers appeal to those seeking food adventures,” Pratt says. “They’re more exciting, more interesting, and appeal to people who want more bite and more color in their food.”

Bask Farm

The Plant Foundry 


Popular Edible Flowers

Interested in trying edible flowers in some of your dishes at home? Bask Farm’s Chanel Cameron offers the following list of flowers that are safe for human consumption, along with their flavor profiles and suggested uses. Be sure that any you plan to eat are free of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals. Whether you’re looking for harvested blooms or you’d like to try growing some of these at home, be sure to only purchase seeds, starts, and blooms from reputable sources to ensure purity.

Aster: Mild, salty. Often dried, steeped in tea, and added to salads

Basil: Herbal, basil-like flavor. Blossoms can be broken apart and sprinkled into pasta.

Borage: Refreshing, cucumber-like taste. Often frozen in ice cubes or added to salads

Calendula: Honey, floral, peppery, bitter. Also known as “poor man’s saffron” as it releases a similar flavor when sautéed. Frequently infused in oils, steeped in teas, and used in skin care

Chamomile: Apple-like taste. Usually steeped in water for tea

Cosmos: Floral, bitter. Often used in desserts, charcuterie, cocktails, and salads

Daylily: Melon, cucumber taste. Used in cocktails, desserts, and salads. Can be stuffed with cheese

Hollyhock: Basil-like taste. Petals are often chopped and added to salads.

Lavender: Slight floral-perfume taste, sweet. Can be used fresh or dried, as a garnish on desserts, candied, pressed into baked goods, or steeped for tea

Marigold: Pungent, citrus, lemon. Petals can be used in salads.

Nasturtium: Spicy, peppery. Blooms and leaves are often used in salads, stuffed with goat cheese, and added to spring rolls. Seeds can be used as one might use capers.

Pansy/viola: Minty, earthy, floral. Used as a pressed flower for cakes, sourdough bread, and rolled cheeses

Primrose: Bland, mild, floral. The flower buds also can be pickled, steamed, or fermented into wine.

Squash: Delicate, mild squash flavor. Blossoms are typically stuffed with pesto or goat cheese and herbs.

Sunflower: Mild, nutty. Great addition to charcuterie boards, cocktails, and salads. Can be steamed or grilled and served whole

Violet: Sweet, floral. Can be candied and added to iced drinks