As Virgil Chao tells it, the grandfather of the current farmer at Peads & Barnetts came from England to teach American farmers how to raise pigs. Their current farm, on the mountainside of Valley Center in San Diego County, grows Australian and African native plants. Both uniquely beautiful and drought resistant, Chao says the flowers are grown organically and without pesticides. Until recently, the pigs shared the land with the flowers before being transported to the foothills of Yosemite, eating the acorns on the farm there. Chao says their most popular flower is the protea, with varieties that look like pincushions and boom mics. The farm has approximately 140 varieties of foliage with some only blooming one week out of the year. Chao recommends cutting stems at an angle and changing the water frequently to prolong their bloom at home.
Chef Chris Ono of Hansei, a multi-course tasting menu at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, loads up a cart of flowering vegetables from Coleman Family Farms. Having worked at both Eleven Madison Park and Mori Sushi, he tells farmers market correspondent Gillian Ferguson that he looks at the blooms as both garnish and flavor. "The amazing thing about these flowers is that they taste like vegetables," he says of the flowering cilantro and broccolini. He uses cilantro in an aguachile and a radish flower as part of his kaiseki course to set the tone for the season.