Edible flowers are gaining popularity in the culinary world, so if you seek an excuse to grow and sell some, now is the time. Although many varieties of edible flowers exist, one of the best for new and beginning flower growers are nasturtiums. The nasturtium is fairly fast growing and prolific, and it’s also beautiful. The flavor is slightly spicy and bright with a nice crunch—foodies as well as chefs love it.
Of course, if you’re a market gardener and you want to grow anything, you need to know how to price and sell it. Here’s my advice.
Pricing edible flowers can be the biggest challenge of selling them. Why? Because unlike a potato or tomato, they weigh very little, so selling them by the ounce or pound can be a difficult, especially if someone wants, say, 20 flowers. For that reason I generally recommend pricing them by volume (container) or individually.
These do not have to be mutually exclusive—the price by volume can be the same price as individually. So decide on an individual price then count how many flowers fit into your selling container—that’s your volume price and individual price. Also, you need to consider how much room the plants take up in the garden. How much labor do you devote to them? Do you sell them to a high-end restaurant in a big city, or a cute little bakery in a small town? What does the competition charge? These are the factors you weigh when pricing anything, and flowers are no different. For a starting point, a lot of growers sell their nasturtiums at 10 cents each. We sell ours at anywhere from 25 cents to 50 cents. Certain restaurants might pay $2 each. It depends on your situation, location and clientele.
Bouquets of flowers are typically an easy sell at the farmers market, but edible flowers might take some work. Start by letting people sample them. This might seem like a waste, but if the flavor and look really speak to a person, you might get a regular customer in the deal. You can also add them to your salad mixes to give the mixes a little color and spice. Honestly, nothing will help your spring salad mix stand out more.
For restaurants, start talking to chefs in the winter about growing these. They probably won’t all be interested, but get a few to commit. Figure out what kind of volume they might want and plant accordingly—a plant will give you at least one to three fresh flowers per day in peak season, so plant accordingly.
I also recommend pint sizes for market and having some pint and quart sizes for restaurants. (Going much bigger might put too much weight on the bottom flowers.) We use simple, round deli containers for packaging, but you can also use unvented clamshells. Bags can work but they tend to crush the leaves a bit. Some people also add a wet paper towel to keep the flowers fresh.
Ensuring they maintain their good looks at market is your biggest challenge, so I recommend a tub with ice water to set the containers in and keep them out of the sun. Also, keep backups in a cooler with ice (or ice packs). Pick them the day you plan to sell them; the lifespan of flowers is never more than a few days.