Beautiful Bites

On a quest for summertime edible flowers?
Flowerland delivers!

By Claire Bradley | Photos by Clara Rice


Flowerland owner Carly Dennett (center) and Nala the dog join managers Sunny Johnson (left) and Billie Dennett (right) for a pineapple-sage mojito break (recipe here). The shop’s marquee message gets renewed when inspiration strikes.

Morgan Smith is Flowerland’s buyer in charge of edible plants.

Multipurpose edible flowers pull their weight in the garden, bringing us beauty and flavor while supporting a thriving web of life. And what better place than Flowerland, Albany’s landmark nursery, to seek advice on flowering culinary plants? The nursery’s marquee sign and friendly vibe at 1330 Solano Avenue have lured gardeners in since 1947, and true to its auspicious name, Flowerland does not disappoint.

Morgan Smith, Flowerland’s buyer in charge of edible plants, heads right to a display devoted entirely to edible flowers. “Flowerland works really hard to cultivate an experience while you’re here that then inspires you when you get home,” she says. And truly, the plants arrayed prettily on the table do ignite the gardener’s imagination.

Smith goes first to the sweet alyssum, a low-growing flowering brassica that’s common in our area. “It’s a little bit invasive, but it’s also incredibly delicious,” she says, offering a cluster of tiny white flowers that taste of mild broccoli with a pleasant crunch. “You can plant it all season long, and it’s really good in a salad.” Continually harvesting its little flowers keeps it in check, and it’s been proven to help with aphid control by attracting “good bugs” like hoverflies.

“That’s one of the coolest things about edible flowers,” Smith continues: “They’re not just something to harvest, they’re also going to do a lot of work for you in the garden.” Other multitaskers adorning the table include herbs with pollinator-friendly blooms and plants with medicinal leaves and flowers like lemon balm and yarrow.

“As long as you’re comfortable with being a little curious about what you’re harvesting, you can get something really good from your plants any time you want,” Smith says. “If I’m thinking about summery edible flowers, one that’s often overlooked is the basil flower. We normally grow basil for its leaves and pinch off the flowers to make the leaves flourish. But if you have an extra basil plant and you let it flower, you’ll see that the bees love it. And you can eat the flowers, too; they’re just a little spicier.”

Along with basil, many popular vegetables like kale, spinach, and brassicas tend to bolt (flower and set seed) in the summer heat. “Usually that means, oh shoot, it’s the end of that plant,” Smith says, “But those flowers are edible. You can chop them up and sauté them … they’re really delicious.” Plus, if you leave some of the flowering vegetables in the ground, you can harvest the seeds for next year’s garden.

Gigi Rodriguez makes a monthly appearance at Flowerland’s popular Sunday pop-ups. Her One-Bite Wonders (filled doughnuts) sometimes sport calendula blossoms, which are edible and also useful in skincare preparations like the salve in our story on the Mills Community Farm.

As we visit the Chilean guava shrubs, Smith introduces the term “edimental” for plants that are both edible and ornamental. Though commonly used as an attractive hedge and known for its tasty berries, this guava also produces bell-shaped summer flowers that make a delicious tea. Pineapple sage—another edimental—features scented foliage (yes, it smells like pineapple) and striking red blooms with sweet, fruity nectar that makes it lovely for garnishing a dessert or cocktail (recipe here). Hummingbirds love it, too.

Thinking about summer garden classics, Smith suggests adding cosmos and cornflower as plants that can lend their petals to salads and cakes for a spicy kick. Another peak-summer performer is lavender, which Smith says comes in many varieties so you can pick exactly the one you like aesthetically. “They’re all going to taste and smell really good. You can make teas, you can make infusions, you can go wild with them.” Also famous for floral infusions is chrysanthemum, which will continue blooming from late summer into the fall.

“We love to talk about plants,” Smith says at the end of our visit. “We’re here to teach you, we’re here to excite you and to bring wonder.” ♦

Flowerland | 1330 Solano Ave, Albany | 510.526.3550 |










Claire Bradley
gardens on her Oakland balcony and shares her experience with fellow small-space container gardeners in a blog called “Botany on the Balcony.”

Pineapple Sage Mojitos

By Claire Bradley | Photo by Clara Rice



  • 1 healthy bunch freshly picked pineapple sage leaves and flowers (divided)
  • ¾ ounce Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup (below)
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters

Muddle 5 or 6 fresh pineapple sage leaves with Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup. Shake with rum, lime juice, bitters, a few pineapple sage flowers, and 1 or 2 ice cubes until just combined. Pour into a highball or double rocks glass and fill with ice. Garnish with fresh pineapple sage leaves and flowers and serve.


Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 healthy bunch pineapple sage leaves and flowers

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add pineapple sage leaves and flowers, cover, and let sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain out and discard the leaves and flowers before use. If stored in a sealed glass jar in the fridge, the syrup will keep for about a month.