Most edible flowers are available only to the restaurant trade. However, some wholesalers, such as Flying Foods Warehouse Inc. at 1225 Broadway, in Santa Monica, make them available at retail prices (from $5.95 to $14.95) to the consumer.
More gourmet food stores are expected to carry these fragile buds as time goes on. You will find flowers packed in pint-size boxes like strawberries. They may contain bottoms with a reservoir to keep them fresh longer. Some growers use baskets with perforations to allow immersion in water. If the reservoir becomes dry, add more water. It is best to use flowers as soon after purchase as possible for best flavor and quality. However, they will last up to one week if kept in water in the refrigerator.
Here is a list of some of the flowers one might expect to find in markets and some of the uses as given by Jay and Pamela North of Paradise Farms, who grow edible flowers commercially.
For a more detailed description of the edible flowers, their uses and some recipes, the Norths have developed a brochure. For a copy, send $4 for handling and postage to Paradise Farms, P.O. Box 436, Summerland, Calif. 93067.
If you want to use home-grown flowers be sure you are using a safe one to eat. You are cautioned to check first for edibility with the plant adviser at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia at (818) 446-8251.
Anise Hyssops--licorice flavored; good on salads and in drinks.
Bee Balm--lemon flavored. Great for drinks and salads.
Borage--cucumber flavor; good with salads and drinks.
Caper--a good garnish for hors d'oeuvres and salads.
Chamomile--a good garnish for salads and for making tea.
Chive blossoms--good as a garnish for soups, salads, stews, fish.
Chrysanthemum--good in Chinese stir-fry dishes, stews, as garnishes or in salads.
Daisy--good in salads and as garnishes.
Day lilies--petals good stuffed fresh or fried or in salads.
Flower of Juda--good in salads or stir-fry
Fresh dandelion--good in soups or stews.
Geraniums--good in salads or soups.
Hollyhocks--good in salads or stuffed with cheese.
Lavender wands--good as garnish, potpourri, or flavoring steaks.
Marigolds--good flavoring for stews, soups and salads; also can be used in lieu of saffron to color and flavor sauces.
Mustard--good in salads, soups or as garnish.
Nasturtiums--good in salads, as garnish or as hors d'oeuvres.
Pansy--good in salads or as hors d'oeuvres.
Pineapple sage--good in sweet sauces, salads and fruit salads.
Rocket (roquette)--good in meat sandwiches and salads.
Rose of Sharon (hibiscus)--good stuffed with cheese fillings, in salads or as garnishes.
Viola--good in salads, as garnish or crystallized to decorate desserts.
Violets--good in salads or crystallized to decorate desserts.